Casino Marketing Misses the Mark
by Martin Baird

Marketing at some casinos is missing the mark badly and I wonder if they will ever learn.

Recently, I saw a television ad for a casino while I was traveling on business. I won’t say which casino it was or where it was located, but that hardly matters. This casino has lots of company.

The ad showed a few young men playing black jack and they weren’t doing well. They were not happy. Then one of them had an “ah-ha” moment. He decided they should go for it and they did. What an amazing difference! Suddenly, they were winning and they were joyful. As if that reflected real life. Then the ad made matters worse by stating, “Relive your glory days.”

Glory days? Oh please! This ad was a glaring example of how there is often a complete disconnect between what marketing portrays and the reality of the casino floor. But that isn’t the most serious problem. Ads like these mean that casinos are spending millions of precious dollars in challenging economic times to deliver a meaningless message to potential new customers. The message is way off the mark.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against marketing. In fact, I think it is necessary. Marketing creates trial and customers who give a property a whirl after seeing an ad just might become regulars. But I seriously doubt they will return if their experience does not match the promise of the marketing.

So what message should casino marketing deliver? It should show that the casino offers what customers want. Then the casino should back up that promise by actually providing the desired experience. Do that and new customers will return.

The hard part is knowing what customers want. Let me state unequivocally that comment cards and satisfaction surveys will not get you there. You need an approach that is new to the gaming industry.

Casinos have customers who play at their property again and again in good times and bad. They really like the casino and they tell their friends and associates about it without being asked to do so. They are far beyond satisfied or loyal. They are advocates for their favorite casino. The casino needs to find out who these advocates are and why they are repeat customers. How does the casino give them the gaming experience they seek? The casino also needs to know why other customers are not advocates. What does the casino do that does not win these customers over? Bring all that information together and you have a blueprint for success.

The next step is to use this new data to make internal improvements at the casino. This will create the gaming experience guests desire. Now the casino can advertise what it offers.

If this sounds unrealistic, it is not. I will give two real-life examples.

The first example is you. You probably have a favorite restaurant that you patronize repeatedly. Maybe it’s the outstanding food. Perhaps you have a favorite waiter or waitress that is a please to interact with. Whatever the reason, you love this place and you routinely tell your friends about it. The restaurant doesn’t ask you to do this. I have news for you. You are an advocate and the more advocates that restaurant has, the more successful it will be because advocates represent repeat business and new business.

Here’s the other example. We have a self-employed friend who buys all his office supplies from one small store in his town. Let’s call the store XYZ. Our friend could buy from one of the big chain stores like Office Depot but he doesn’t. He is exceptionally pleased with the prices and the knowledgeable, personalized service he receives at XYZ. Our friend tells anyone who will listen that they should buy at XYZ. He raves about the place and knows some people have bought supplies there based on his recommendation. He knows they go back to buy more. XYZ has never asked our friend to do this. He does it voluntarily.

Our friend is what every business – and casino -- wants:

•He is an advocate for XYZ. He is FAR more than a satisfied customer. He is truly an advocate.

•He freely gives referrals.

•He risks his personal reputation with friends and associates by recommending XYZ. His reputation is safe because he knows they will like the store.

•He is an unpaid salesman for the office supply store.

•He generates results for the store.

Advocates are real people with real influence. Just like XYZ supply store, your casino likely has more than one. You need to find out who these people are, learn from them and realign your casino for the future. Then by all means, do your marketing! You are on the mark and should let the world know.

Date Posted: 13-Aug-2011

Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based consulting firm to the global gaming industry that is dedicated to helping casinos improve their guest service so they can compete and generate future growth and profitability. Robinson & Associates is the world leader in casino guest experience measurement and improvement. For more information, visit the company’s Web sites at www.casinocustomerservice.com and www.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com or contact the company at 208-991-2037. Robinson & Associates is an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

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