by Sudhir H. Kale, Ph.D.*
4P FRAMEWORK FOR CASINO SUCCESS
By Sudhir H. Kale, Ph.D.*
Have you heard about the 4Ps in discussions on marketing? Of course, you have. I can already sense shudders among my dear beloved readers. Not to worry. This article is not another one of those “Death By PowerPoint” lectures that talks about product, price, promotion, and place. Speaking of these four Ps, a lot of marketing professors, students as well as practitioners credit this framework to my friend Philip Kotler. In reality, it was Jerry McCarthy who first spoke of the four Ps when discussing the domain of marketing.
The 4P framework I would like to discuss is “Property Positioning for Profitable Performance.” With the competition in the gaming industry intensifying, how you position your property could make the difference between success and failure, life and death, growth and stagnation. In making such bold claims, I may be getting ahead of myself. Let us first define what we mean by positioning. Quite simply, a brand position is the place your brand occupies in the mind of your target market relative to competitive offerings. In deciding which newspaper to read, which tomato ketchup to have with fries, which car to drive, and which casino to frequent, all customers use their “perceptual maps,” plot diagrams in the head representing the perceptions of positions of the various brands they are aware of. If a customer is buying a toothpaste in a supermarket, her mental map will tell her to buy Crest if she is concerned about cavities, and Close-Up if she values fresh breath.
I have asked the following question of casino marketing directors and general managers scores of times, “What is your property’s positioning statement?” Many times, my question is greeted with a look of baffled embarrassment, particularly on the part of executives at some of the smaller casinos. Yet, positioning is as critical to your marketing program as your company’s mission statement to its survival and future direction.
Your casino’s brand position represents the key feature, benefit, or image that it stands for in the collective psyche of your target market. Al Reis and Jack Trout, widely acknowledged as the pioneering gurus of positioning write, “Positioning starts with a product. A piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institution, or even a person. Perhaps yourself. But positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is you position the product in the mind of the prospect.”
Positioning encompasses the central idea that captures your brand’s meaning and distinctiveness vis-à-vis competitive offerings. It is your positioning that forms the basis of developing all successful marketing communications. It tells you who to target, what to say, and what media and message vehicles to use in delivering your message. In their highly acclaimed book, Counter-Intuitive Marketing, Clancy and Krieg (2000) argue that from both a strategic as well as a tactical perspective, the positioning statement should be a short one, even a word. It should forcefully convey the message “you want to imprint in the minds of customers and prospects.” It gives the customer a reason to patronize your brand; it underscores how your brand is different from, and superior to, the competition.
In his article recently posted on the MarketingProfs.com Website, “The Positioning Statement: Why To Have One Before You Start Communicating,” Ford Kanzler writes that a well-crafted positioning statement should be based on answers to seven essential questions:
Who you are?
What business you’re in?
Who you serve?
What does the target market that you serve need?
Against whom do you compete?
What’s different about your business?
What unique benefit does the customer derive from your product or service?
Answers to these questions should be based on collective inputs from all managers who are interested and involved in key company activities—the CFO, CEO, and VPs of marketing, sales, and customer service. If you are a casino-hotel, then both the hotel side as well as the casino side of the business needs to be involved in this exercise. And do not forget your prospective customers when it comes to providing inputs, but more about it later. The desired result is a series of crisp positioning statements and supporting messages that reflect the current reality of your business and act as a guide in moving the company towards its “sought after, achievable, differentiated position.”
Typically, you can position your property along one or more of the following dimensions: price/quality, product-mix attributes, product user, product usage, product class, competition, and symbol or icon. Regardless of the dimensions chosen, the positioning statement should, ideally, result in a strong, clear, and consistent image of your property in comparison with your competitors. This will allow for product differentiation through a brand image. Meaningful differentiation will, in turn, translate into brand loyalty, which means a greater share of customer wallet in your targeted market.
Positioning starts out with a declaration to your customer, which then becomes a reality or falsehood in her mind through accumulated experience. For the declaration to become a well-imprinted reality, periodic reinforcement through marketing communication efforts is essential. Positioning thus constitutes the backbone of your marketing strategy.
Price/Quality: Many buyers equate high price with high quality. In the casino parlance, this may equate with prices the casino charges for its hotel rooms, or the table minimum for bets. Caesar’s Palace and Las Vegas Hilton probably have established this position among Las Vegas gamblers.
Product-Mix/Attributes: “Good food specials and buffet,” and “good entertainment in the bars,” are examples of positioning along attributes of the casino entertainment provider. Circus-Circus and the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas could be positioned along these lines.
Product User: The representative user of a product can also be used to position a brand. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino seems positioned as a casino for “the guest seeking a unique, hip and exciting experience.”
Product Usage: A product may be positioned on the basis of the way in which it is typically used. The Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia brags about its “world class shopping and dining,” and its “luxurious and indulgent accommodation.” This message conveys that Crown is not just a casino -- it offers more by providing the amenities that are usually available at a top-notch luxury resort.
Product Class: It is sometimes possible to position a brand against another product or product class. The Stratosphere in Las Vegas uses the following copy in promoting its wedding chapel, “Imagine taking your vows of eternal love high amongst the clouds in a chapel so unique, your family and friends will talk about it for years. Situated 800 feet above the Las Vegas Strip in the Stratosphere Tower, your chapel is higher than any other in the entire country.” In so doing, the property (or a specific component thereof) is positioned against chapels and function halls, not casinos. Another example of product class positioning is the way in which casinos in Queensland, Australia position themselves against the various pubs and RSL clubs, “Our slots pay more, it’s the law.”
Competition: Comparing, either directly or indirectly, a brand to its competition is another form of product positioning. In a recent lead article in Gambling, Michael Shackleford provides a comprehensive and credible comparison of Las Vegas reel slot returns. The Palms Casino had the highest payout on nickel slots — 93.42% against a median of 91.7% payout. Palms Casino could use these statistics in positioning itself against other casinos in Vega
Date Posted: 01-Jan-2003
*Sudhir H. Kale, Ph.D., has successfully repositioned himself from being an academic involved in scholarly endeavors to a widely acclaimed expert in the field of casino marketing. He has published scores of articles on various aspects of marketing within the gaming industry. Sudhir consults and trains for several organizations involved with gaming. You can download Sudhir’s insightful presentation, “CRM In Gaming: It’s No Crapshoot!” from www.egamingpro.com, or contact him by e-mail: Sudhir_Kale@Bond.edu.au.