Grand Casino is the largest casino operation in Minnesota. It was one of the first tribal gaming casinos in the nation. Its two properties, Grand Casino Hinckley and Grand Casino Mille Lacs are world-class destination resorts. Separated by a 90 minute drive, they both offer Vegas-style gaming within an area that is the gateway to the recreational wonderland of the Minnesota lakes district.
These properties compete with 17 regional casinos, some with huge destination properties and equally huge ad budgets.
Challenge: Create a unified brand identity for Grand Casino Hinckley and Mille Lacs that gives these casinos a distinct positioning advantage against its regional competitors.
Situation: At the time only one competitor had any brand differentiation: Treasure Island, which simulated a tropical paradise with its theme. Research told us that customers noticed almost no difference in the ads they were shown for other local casinos. This meant that advertisers (other than Treasure Island) were giving them no reasons to believe their properties offered anything unique.
Result: Though the two Grand Casino properties are each in what is clearly a non-urban setting, the bulk of their customers are drawn from the metro Twin Cities Minnesota, combined populations of nearly 3 million. And though Minneapolis-St.Paul is a pleasant and livable city, research produced a key insight about the Grand Casino setting: it was seen by its loyal fans to be just the right distance away from the Twin Cities to allow you to have a great gaming getaway within a friendly down-home atmosphere. “Its employees are nice” — and “they know my name” the customers said. “I always have a good time there — even when I lose!”
We lit on this insight and started calling it the “Cheers” phenomenon — that people wanted to be part of a place where everybody knew your name. When you chose a place like that for your gaming escape (unlike the Mystic Lake Casino nearer to the city which had a more ‘urban’ vibe) you always felt like you belonged. And one thing people like to do when they feel comfortable like that is to “tell stories”.
The “What’s Your Grand Casino Story?” idea was born. Customers were thrilled to share their tales of how they won, what they did with the money, etc. It worked on all levels, from guests vying to outdo each other for best story, to employees working hard to be remembered by a customer who might share their story of great service. The slogan and friendly ‘just-plain-folks’ spokespeople were everywhere. People talked about the campaign on the street. Even morning radio jocks did parodies. In just a few months, the campaign achieved the highest brand awareness for any casino brand ever measured in the state of Minnesota.
Show Me The Money: Grand Casino awareness was so high that our competitors were forced to over-spend to match our numbers. It’s #1 competitor outspent them 4 to 1 in their primary market; the #2 competitor, by 3 to 1. Even so, independent research confirmed that Grand Casino measured at par or higher than it’s competitors in ad recall, intent to visit and top-box brand awareness.
That’s millions of dollars of value that Grand Casino was able to realize due to the smarter, better, more powerful and efficient creative. The creative worked harder for them — allowing them to repurpose millions towards other efforts.