Experiential Casino Marketing
by Desmond Lam

Experiential Casino Marketing
by Desmond Lam

I just returned from the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel today after attending a trade convention and decided to write this article. So far, my experience at Venetian Macao has been a positive one.

I stayed in its suite two days after its official opening, took a dip in its pools, visited its massive casino floor, shopped at its retail stores, and ate my favorite Hainanese chicken rice in its food court. Personally, I think that its model of ‘weekend for gamblers and weekdays for MICE visitors’ has worked well so far.

When Venetian first informed me of their special room rate at HK$ 1,088 via mobile text message, I was thrilled and booked a room minutes later; I learned later that none of my colleagues received this message. “I’m so special”, I thought. When my wife heard (from her friends) of the first Venetian Festival, she put on her shoes, took my car and drove off to Venetian. Just yesterday, Venetian offered more than a hundred free tickets to our university staff and a thousand tickets to our students to watch the NBA basketball match between Orlando Magic and Team China in its arena. The tickets were snatched up within minutes. Our students and staff were overwhelmed. For many of us, this is a golden chance to experience Venetian and its offerings. To a certain extent, this is experiential marketing at work.

Experiential marketing focuses on brand awareness, image and, very importantly, customer experiences. It deals with the emotional aspects of customer interaction. The true essence of experiential marketing lies in genuinely good quality brand or products, selectivity of marketing efforts on attributes most important to potential customers, and good use of marketing research as well as customer data.

Experiential marketing calls for a deliberate effort to let potential customers experience the brand or products that you market and let these people know what your casinos/resort means and how it is defined. In some cases, this can be accomplished with print or television advertisements that are deliberately created to arouse the feeling which patrons will experience if they enter and enjoy your facilities. More commonly, and perhaps more effectively, it is done by selectively inviting potential customers (i.e. opinion leaders or early adopters) to your venue and ensuring that they get the experience of their lifetime - the experience that is defined by you and represented by your company, brand and products. This is critical for experiential marketing to work.

Contrary to experiential marketing, traditional casino marketing efforts focus on rational aspects of customer interactions by stressing on the benefits (or sometimes costs) of a brand or product. Imagine this traditional print ad: “We are Asia’s Las Vegas. We have 3,000 beautiful suites, more than 350 attractive retail stores, around 800 table games and 3,000 slots, and a multipurpose arena that can fill 15,000 people! Come visit us now!”

Telling your potential customers how good you are is simply not good enough in current state of the gaming market. In experiential marketing, we let the customers experience the benefits themselves; the true worth of your products. Positive emotions that are generated toward your brand or products would then be more lasting and creates an emotional bonding between you and your best customers. All these can greatly increase your differential advantage over other competitors, particularly in a matured market where physical product differences are minute.

To some executives, experiential marketing simply means throw in the freebies and then get the customers to come. That is totally untrue! It is important to note that one does not issue free dinning coupons and stops there. The subsequent dining experience must be deliberately enhanced to maximize the experience given to these free dinning coupon holders.

All these are easier said then done. A good experiential marketing campaign should focus on maximizing the experience of potential customers, and not on short-term sales. Forget about how to get them to spend spend spend the moment they enter your facilities. Think about how to give them a great experience when they come. If you do it right, they will feel the passion and will come back again, bringing along their families and friends!

A carefully planned campaign like this calls for a more intimate (emotional) interaction with each (selected) customer with the hope to generate the highest emotional satisfaction. Positive actual experiences by these customers may then lead to subsequent purchase behavior and further re-purchases. They create a more permanent loyalty and help generate valuable positive word-of-mouth, leading to greater sales.

Put it simply: Don’t tell them how good you are, let them experience how good you are and bond with them. If they like it, they will give you their lasting loyalty.

Date Posted: 23-Oct-2007

Desmond Lam is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Macau. He can be contacted at DesmondL@umac.mo.

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