09.26.12.


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With Microsoft’s announcement that Internet Explorer 10 would ship with “do not track” as the default setting, the obvious question is, “What does this mean for my casino?”

This is likely the first major move in a trend toward consumer privacy. There’s just been too much negative sentiment to the manner in which Google and Facebook have callously collected and sold information about their customers.

The upshot is that, for better or for worse, it will be significantly harder to target your customers. So estimates suggest cost for delivering a targeted message to a specific audience will increase by as much as eight times.

If this is even half true, the smart casinos will turn to partners who truly understand casino customers. It won’t be cost effective to hire a “digital specialist” who basically just turns on some tracking tools and sends you a bill.  Your casino will get the most bang for the buck by teaming up with a marketing partner who knows your business, and has an intuitive sense where your customers are, where to reach them, and what to tell them.

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Despite constant reports that “TV is a dying medium”, TV ad revenues in 2011 topped $70 billion for the first time ever. Yes Sports Fans, TV advertising still works.

But that doesn’t mean your media buy is working as hard as it can. In fact, I would argue that as media spending increases, so does waste. This is because media companies are getting spread thinner and thinner. They are not taking the time to analyze your unique audience, or to learn their specific media consumption habits.

In a world where incredible precision and customization is possible, far too many brands are ending up with a “one-size-fits-all” media plan.

At Red Circle Agency, we have over 50 years experience in media planning and purchasing. We know how to slice and dice your audience to find exactly the right eyeballs at exactly the right time.

We have, on many occasions, been able to increase reach and frequency for our clients, while achieving cost savings of more than 33% – often adding up to millions of dollars.

And we can do the same for you.

Give us a call, and see what better media spend can do for you.

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I love Tara Ezzell’s post from from last week. In her post, she pointed out how you can get buried in all the science of marketing sometimes, and forget to look at your projects – and your property – the way regular people do.

Since a lot of what I ask my clients to care about involves the “image” and the “face” of the marketing, I’ll put a challenge to you similar to the one that Tara suggested:

Tour your property like a first-time guest. Look at all the points of contact. What’s the first piece of on-premise marketing that the customer sees? Is it a post that contains an old logo that your property stopped using 3 years ago? Is it a slogan from a campaign you no longer run? This matters.

What about the video screens that carry news of promotions and events? Do these posters carry the same branding that your design group/agency brings forth in your TV and print work? Or are they put together by different designers who just love to try new fonts and colors every time?

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05.02.12.


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As casino marketers it’s important to take the time now and then to LOOK UP. It’s easy to become imbedded in the details and demands of our incredibly busy day – fixing the guest issues, getting that mail program out, 257 sales calls, sorting out those media invoices, running reports, analyzing reports, communicating the contents of the reports to our boss, etc., etc. etc. It’s work that can be daunting at the best of times.

So the challenge for this week: LOOK UP. Put down your pen, let the phone go to voicemail, let that email wait for one hour – it’ll still be there when you get back (I’ve done it and it’s never gone…never). Take a walk out to your parking lot (might want to let security know you’re doing this) and walk into your casino from the perspective of one of your guests: though the front doors. What do you see? We all walk through these areas all of the time, but how often do we actually LOOK at them?

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Do you remember the 80′s monster/horror-in-space film “Alien”? It’s a seminal work of sci-fi/horror from creative genius Ridley Scott, one of my all-time favorite film-makers. Check it out if you haven’t yet. Amazing movie. What’s particularly brilliant about the film — the story-telling technique that hooks the audience and doesn’t let go until the credits roll — is the teasingly delayed reveal of the monster (the alien). We know it’s a scary alien movie, but we only get parts of the aliens story, quick images of things in brief flashes, which never SHOW us the alien — until almost the very end. The technique at work in this movie — the delayed monster reveal — demonstrates Scott’s horror film-making genius, as these teasing flashes do a really great job of keeping us guessing throughout the film. Which is to say, Scott withholds the thing we want most to see up on the screen, and in doing so FORCES US TO IMAGINE WHAT HE REFUSES TO SHOW US: the scary alien we are all afraid of.

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It doesn’t seem wrong enough to be THAT important, so you allow it to continue. And besides, it’s what you’ve always done, and because of that, because it’s always been that way, it’s easy to just ignore what’s wrong about it. Everyone is comfortable with what we’ve been doing. Change is… kinda scary. Change feels like a risk, and risk implies danger. Better to just stay the course. Safer to stay the course, right?

Wrong.

Bad advertising is something you need to shake off and put behind you, period. It’s undermining your casino’s ability to truly maximize revenues. Think I’m kidding? What if I told you 75% of your direct mail offers weren’t making it to the mailboxes of your players? The mail just wasn’t getting there. You’d flip out, right ? You’d call a meeting with all the directors and VP’s and you’d spend all night and the next day working on a solution. Your organization’s legal team would go without sleep until it was resolved. The whole management team would be calling hourly asking for updates.

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Digital marketing is the most efficient, most measurable and most interactive media tool available to casinos — so why are so many of us ignoring it?

Change is hard. And scary. But if the change looks like a good change, and the upside can be measured, and the change tested and built-up incrementally, then a change that looks good can be a change that is good. I remember when I first started working at my tribe’s casinos as the advertising manager at Grand Casino Hinckley in Minnesota. It was the year after we started sending out direct mail offers. Prior to that we hadn’t done any mail. This was 15 years ago, but I remember those first meetings as a young advertising manager like they were yesterday. What I remember most is the fight our sister property’s ad manager and I had with management to steal back our budgets from the direct marketing team. You see, for the previous 10 months, our advertising had gone dark. No ads, because management and the newly created direct marketing team had stolen away all the advertising dollars to fund this new direct mail concept. And they didn’t want to give us back our advertising budget because the direct mail experiment had been so very successful. Very, very successful. That’s an example of good change. Very good change. There are others and we can all point to them when the industry changed dramatically for the good. All businesses have them game-changing paradigm shift.

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The Most Interesting Man in the World – Dos Equis

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like – Old Spice

Burger King Whopper Sacrifice – BK

Chrysler 200 (Superbowl Ad) – Chrysler

Advertising is simple.  Your message only has to do two things: 1.) Capture the ATTENTION of your target audience — get them to look at your message and recognize it for what it is — and, 2.) In that moment of recognition of your product, the audience must see/know how your product is DIFFERENT than the others in market, and also WHY YOUR PRODUCT IS RIGHT FOR THEM.

If you make messaging that does these two things, you have what most would call “advertising,” and, frankly, if you can make casino ads that don’t blend into all the other casino ads in your market (ATTENTION) and demonstrate your casino’s unique selling message (DIFFERENCE), then I think you’re doing better than most!  Most casino ads, and in fact most ads for any and all products, don’t get those two things done very well.  Ineffective advertising is just noise.  There’s a lot of this kind of advertising in the world right now.  Look out your window right now, you’ll likely see lots of it.  Check out this fact: The average American encounters 3,000 advertising messages each day.  That’s a lot of advertising, right?  And most of it’s noise.  Nearly all of it, in fact.

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A good idea can make a difference.  The lack of a good idea means nothing.  As in, nothing changes.  As in, I hope the competition doesn’t buy a new idea and move ahead of us.  Because without a good idea, we’re standing still.  No, that’s not true.  In today’s world, standing still is actually moving backwards.
Where are you getting your new ideas?
If you’re like a lot of Indian casinos today, you’re not buying any new ideas.  You’re not spending on anything.  You’re running with what you got.  More than not buying, you are going one step further and investing in the idea of cutting costs, hoping your guests don’t notice that you’re giving them less for their dollar.  Guess what — they notice.  And that revenue decline that’s not coming back — it’s not all the economy’s doing.  It’s partly the economy and partly the decision to give your guests less for their money.  Give them less, they will give you less.  It’s really that simple.
Am I suggesting you spend money to spend money?  No way.  Spending smart, yes; spending more money on yesterday’s ideas, no way.  But you gotta invest in yourself — even when the economy is tight.  Standing still is going backwards.
Here’s a cautionary tale.  Someone I know shared an NY Times article analyzing the profitability of a large Northwest Indian casino operation that DOES NOT utilize a modern player-tracking system and the player loyalty marketing tools made possible by that sort of system.  The article was very much a “how to do business wrong” sort of piece.  The article claims the casino — because they don’t use a modern loyalty database marketing program — is leaving $50 million a year “on the table.”  As in, they could make $50 million more if they only installed this $2 million dollar system and engaged in some smart database marketing.  Terrible and tragic and amazingly unexplainable, right?  I’ve worked in the market before, and so I know the article to be true — and possibly conservative even.  A person I know who used to work there says the number is more like $80-100 million.  Can you imagine that?  Leaving $100 million on the table because…  It’s easier to do nothing.  Doing nothing is safe.  Expensive, but safe.
But what I am suggesting here is not risky.  It’s simple advertising principles — a sure and true as physics.  Drop a rock off a building, and it falls to the ground.  Create advertising that’s interesting, proprietary, and based on an idea that connects with your target audience in a way that creates an emotional connection — that rock will fall.
The simple rational is this: When your casino first opened, you were right to make ads that showcased the casino and all the many things in the building.  Now, many years later, everyone knows what’s inside a casino.  99% of your guests have already been to your casino at least once before.  So the old idea — showing them what’s in the building — is wrong now.  That “show them the stuff” idea was the right launch idea 20 years ago when people didn’t yet know.  Now they all know what you have.  Now it’s time for an idea that differentiates your casino from the others in the market.  Show them difference now, not stuff.  Find your difference and up-sell that difference in a way that matters to your guests.  Wrap that message about difference in advertising that makes an emotional connection with your audience.  Bamm!  That’s an idea that’s worth investing in.

A good idea can make a difference.  The lack of a good idea means nothing.  As in, nothing changes.  As in, I hope the competition doesn’t buy a new idea and move ahead of us.  Because without a good idea, we’re standing still.  No, that’s not true.  In today’s world, standing still is actually moving backwards.

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Just because your ads include pictures of casino “things” — chips, cards, cash and young blonde women jumping up and down at a slot machine — doesn’t mean you are “branding” your casino.  In fact, a brand is defined as: “what people think of you in comparison to your competitors” — and if your ads look no different than the casino down the road, then you are NOT branding anything.  You are making casino ads with your little logo in the bottom right corner.  But that’s not branding.  Branding, by definition, requires the creation of difference.
Look at your casino’s advertising.  Different or the same?  And I’m not taking about the color of the type or whether your logo is in the bottom right corner.  Those are easy.  Beyond that, the next step, and the part that will make a difference is this.  1.) Create only ads that SAY SOMETHING SPECIAL AND UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR CASINO, something that’s very specifically different from what other casinos say about themselves.  That’s a start.  The next step, then, is: 2.) Find a way to talk about your special difference in a way that up-sells what’s special about you.  Better.  Now, here’s the Master’s level class: 3.) Craft a message that sells what’s special in a way that actually matters to your audience.  Emotional connections matter.  Make advertising that engages your audience, asks them to care about the choice of which casino to visit.  Do that and success will follow.
This is hard to do.  Especially difficult for Indian casinos where politics are thick and jobs are difficult to hold on to.  Your casino managers are human beings, and for human beings it’s always more difficult to break from the herd than to follow along.  There is great comfort and safety in doing what others do.  It’s human nature.  But it’s also the most fundamentally primary reason that most advertising in the world (casinos and all others) is visual garbage and a complete waste of money.
So if you want your advertising to be more than visual garbage and a complete waste of money, follow this rule: The primary job of any ad is two-fold, which are: 1.) Draw attention to the message (get eyeballs and ears to pay attention to the ad), and 2.) show difference between our product and the others in a way that’s compelling (make the audience care about — even love — you).  That’s the job, period.
Again, look at your ads.  Do they call out difference and sell your special uniqueness, or do they sell sameness?  Is there anything in your ads that would make someone care, or do the ads serve as a tool for the casino to brag about itself?  Avoid bragging about yourself.  Find a way to connect with your guests thru your messaging.  Find a way to make them feel special.  Your ads need to work for your casino like small-talk works for a single guy chatting up a girl at a club.  No successful single guy walks up to a girl at a club and starts talking about himself and pointing at his cool clothes and expensive shoes.  And if he looks like every other douche-bag in the club, then he’s striking out.  That guy’s a loser and will grow old as a very, very single and lonely bachelor.  Better to look/dress uniquely — but in a way that’s not weird or threatening but original and interesting — and rather than talk about yourself, instead act friendly and helpful and ask the girl questions about herself.  And when possible, create connections: “Hey, that’s my favorite song, too.  Let’s go dance to it…?”  Your casino ads need to make the same sort of play.
The non-nightclub/dance floor version of this advice is this.  Good branding showcases how your product is different and better than your competitors.  Great branding does the same but finds a way to also emotionally connect with its audience.  Create difference, up-sell value, and make an emotional connection.  These are the keys to branding success.

Just because your ads include pictures of casino “things” — chips, cards, cash and young blonde women jumping up and down at a slot machine — doesn’t mean you are “branding” your casino.  In fact, a brand is defined as: “what people think of you in comparison to your competitors” — and if your ads look no different than the casino down the road, then you are NOT branding anything.  You are making casino ads with your little logo in the bottom right corner.  But that’s not branding.  Branding, by definition, requires the creation of difference.

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