Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category


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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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There’s a difference between design and branding, and it’s as important as the difference between your girlfriend and your mother.  Yeah, that important.  Really.

Design is defined as this: “To plan and fashion artistically or skillfully.”  What something looks like.  Important, yes, but the most important thing?  Think of this like a woman in a night club.  It’s important that she look a certain way (she needs to be attractive to you if you’re going to ask her to dance), but if you want do more than dance, it’s REQUIRED that she be interesting in a way that’s deeper, that has to do with who she is as a person, how funny or smart she is, etc.  All of this is NECESSARY if you want to engage her.

What I’m saying is this.  If the design is good, I’ll look at her.  But there needs to be more to her, something interesting to me specifically — something that connects me to her in a meaningful way — before I will do more than look at her.  Your casino advertising and marketing messaging is the exact same thing.

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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.

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There’s a difference between design and branding, and it’s as important as the difference between your girlfriend and your mother. Yeah, that important. Really.

Design is defined as this: “To plan and fashion artistically or skillfully.” What something looks like. Important, yes, but the most important thing? Think of this like a woman in a night club. It’s important that she look a certain way (she needs to be attractive to you if you’re going to ask her to dance), but if you want do more than dance, it’s REQUIRED that she be interesting in a way that’s deeper, that has to do with who she is as a person, how funny or smart she is, etc. All of this is NECESSARY if you want to engage her.

What I’m saying is this. If the design is good, I’ll look at her. But there needs to be more to her, something interesting to me specifically — something that connects me to her in a meaningful way — before I will do more than look at her. Your casino advertising and marketing messaging is the exact same thing.

Branding is the meaning behind the design. The purpose and reason. Without meaning, purpose and reason — it’s nothing more than shining wrapping, like a kid’s candies. Your brand is the IDEA that represents your product/company in the minds of the people in your market. Your brand is how they think of you IN COMPARISON TO your competitors. Are you the same, better, worse, too far away, too smokey, full of machines that are too tight, staffed with friendly employees, or not. Your brand is what they think of you.

Let me repeat that: Your brand is WHAT THEY THINK OF YOU. It’s not your logo. It’s not the design of your billboards, your brochures, your website or your tv ads (those CAN support or not support your brand position), but they are only the wrapping around the candy, the clothes and make-up on the girl in the night club. They are the purpose and the meaning. That’s deeper. And much, much, much more important.

If you want your players to take you home from the night club, if you want to “go steady” — then your brand must have depth and meaning. A loud and brightly colored ad campaign can get you looked at — but you want more than that. You want to be considered, to be thought of — and thought well of, even. That’s what a strong brand helps accomplish.
Your brand is like your mother — she gives you meaning and purpose and character. Your mother guides your choices in life and helps you become the person you are. She can help you — and often will (like it or not) help you find the right girlfriend to date. Your brand should, likewise, guide your advertising and your design choices, which, in the end, can be sexy and gorgeous — but only if the meaning and purpose under the sexy/gorgeous is in-line with what Mom says is right for your casino.

Check out some of our case studies. I think you’ll see right away how we marry meaning and purpose to our client’s work. This is how we help our clients get more bang for their advertising spend. A good brand connects with the audience in a way that’s real and true and emotional — and that’s how you get them to do more than dance with you.

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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.

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Who is your competition and what do they look like? What are they doing to gain market share and steal your customers? How do you compare overall? How do your amenities, your service and your offerings stack up against theirs? Just knowing these things can give you a significant market advantage. Many of our clients face aggressive competition, especially in the area of marketing. It is not always necessary or advantageous to fight back with aggressive marketing offers in like; however, being cognizant of what your players are getting at your competition is critical in helping you remain competitive. Focus and build on your strengths, those things that you do better than your competition. Remain reasonable and don’t recklessly give away the house because at some point in time you will need to draw back to survive and to be profitable and when that time comes the backlash may be more painful than what your management team will tolerate. And remember good service is critical. Players are only as loyal as the offer they have in hand, but when offers are equivalent or gone they will go where they are comfortable and treated well, and often even more so than where it is convenient. Invest a little time into acquiring a comprehensive competitor research, if you don’t already, as it will be well worth your effort.

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The article below is one I wrote for the most recent issue of the Raving Consulting Newsletter. Needless to say, I feel strongly about this topic, so I’ve decided to publish it here on our blog as well.

Two days ago my creative director and I were discussing ideas for a potential client, and we were arguing. We had a great business idea for the client, but the business idea didn’t match up with the advertising solution I was convinced the client wanted to buy from us. The client was looking for a new brand solution, and they very much liked our Grand Casino “What’s Your Grand Casino Story?” campaign. And so I thought the answer was to find a Guest-centric testimonial-like branding idea, but Cathy felt her idea — which was not a Guest-centric testimonial branding idea — she felt her idea was something better, something bigger, and something that could reposition the client and drive huge business. I said, “The client wants a brand campaign that looks like this.” And she said, “No, our job is to help our client use their marketing dollars to drive more business. And this idea is bigger than advertising. It’s a positioning idea that is something more. Remember, an ad is only as big as the billboard, but an idea can be much, much bigger.”

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When a business wants to examine where the money is going at any given time, the business owner calls accountants to do an audit. Those auditors are there to find discrepancies in what’s being paid for and what’s being delivered. The same can be true for your advertising.

And I am not talking about a Media Audit. You can always audit whether or not the media services you are paying for are performing as promised — that’s pretty clean math, and we will talk more about Media Audits in another posting.

For now, in this article, we’d like to encourage you to be asking the folks who do your advertising some important questions. You see, even though most people consider the creation of advertising to be an art form, there really is a good deal of science to it. There are certain “must do’s” that we believe you should be insisting on. The point of giving out rules for something as creative as advertising is that it is an investment like any other. You spend money to air it or print it. But first you spend money to create it – whether it’s the dollars paid to an ad agency or the time your team spends to help create it; once finished, it is a straight-up cost.

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