Casino marketing

July 06, 2010 7:04 AM
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As casinos battle the effects of the recession and increasing competition, operators look to new marketing techniques to maintain if not grow their share of a shrinking economic pie.

In such a competitive environment, a "cookie-cutter" approach to advertising and marketing is no longer effective – gone are the days of the billboard with martinis, beautiful girls, a steak dinner and a craps table.

This month’s Casino Marketing Conference promises to shed some light on the latest innovations in casino marketing.

The seventh annual Casino Marketing Conference, a unique event featuring information sharing and networking unmatched by any other gaming industry conference, is set for July 19-21 at Paris Las Vegas.

Joining the conference this year is the inaugural Advertising and New Media Summit on July 19, an exciting new program for casino marketers which will explore how to leverage traditional advertising and marketing programs with 21st century web, text and social media tools.

"The support for Casino Marketing continues to be gratifying, with nearly 400 attendees from across North America at last year’s event despite economic conditions, underscoring the importance of marketing in the gaming industry," said Dennis Conrad, president and chief strategist of Raving Consulting Company, co-producer of Casino Marketing Conference with BNP Media. "This year, we are thrilled to launch the Advertising and New Media Summit to focus specifically on advertising and all the great tools, new and old, available to make the most of every opportunity."

Returning this year are gaming industry researchers Glenn Goulet and Michael Meczka, who will once again share their findings and survey results on what drives casino players and how to best serve their needs.

"Players have not only cut back on the number of trips they are making to casinos, but many have trimmed their gaming budgets," Goulet said. "Our research will help marketers understand how to cope with what could be permanent changes in player habits."

The Goulet/Meczka session will offer insights into:

• Why players say they are visiting some casinos less now and what savvy operators can do to lure them back.

• What players really expect from a casino … is it the games, the amenities or is it the quest for the best comp deals?

• How players are reacting to a new deluge of direct mail (and e-mail) casino offerings. For example, almost half of casino players now report getting more mail or other types of offers and deals from the competition than they were in the past. And many say the offerings miss the mark in terms of what they really want.

Last year, Meczka released player research that was often critical of "short-sighted" marketing techniques, which sought to "get the money fast … and get the player out of here."

Those techniques included speeding up the games to reduce playing time, increasing the number of coins needed to play, increasing slot machines’ hold percentage, removing the popular 3 and 5 coin max games and shortening the video reel spin cycle to reduce playing time.

"Short-sighted casino practices have compressed the player’s experience, shortening their time in the casino," Meczka said. "The result has been players seeking other alternatives."

It will be interesting to see what Goulet and Meczka come up with this year.

The marketing conference will also feature a popular segment, the Best and Worst Casino Promotions, compiled by gaming marketing expert Dennis Conrad.

"I see thousands of casino direct mail pieces each year, plus media, e-mail and web campaigns, and the Best and Worst are my attempts to honor the unappreciated, the cool and the quirky in all those efforts that casinos make on behalf of their customers," Conrad said. "Whether they end up as the Best or the Worst, one thing is certain: no industry does more weird, wacky and wonderful stuff than the gaming industry."

Conrad’s "best" promotions come from about a dozen casinos, including in Las Vegas the Silverton, Flamingo, Suncoast and Coast Casinos.

As for the worst, Conrad doesn’t name names, but he cites several examples of mixed messages, poor taste, typos, insensitivity and plain stupidity from several casinos in his collection of worst promotions.

Casino Marketing’s keynote speakers for 2010 are Randy Fine, Managing Director of The Fine Point Group and Phil Satre, Chairman of the Board for IGT and former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board for Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.

Fine opens the conference on July 20 with a hands-on look at a great marketing story in his address entitled "An Uncommon Marketing Success: The Story of Greektown Casino."

The next day, industry icon Satre will deliver a State of the Industry address on "How Marketers Should Be Thinking About Their Customers and Their Business in 2010 and Beyond."

The Advertising and New Media Summit’s keynote speaker on July 19 is Angel Suarez, Brand Manager for ESPN, who will discuss "Making the Most of Your Next Big Idea" during his luncheon address.

In addition to a strong conference program showcasing numerous industry experts, Casino Marketing features two notable award presentations. On July 20, Virginia McDowell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc., will receive Casino Marketing’s Lifetime Achievement Award. And on July 21, during a special luncheon ceremony, the prestigious Romero Awards: Recognizing Excellence in Casino Marketing, will be hosted by noted boxing analyst and celebrity Al Bernstein.

Complete conference details and registration information are available at www.casinomarketing2010.com.

A limited number of sponsorships and exhibit booths are available by contacting Lesley Grashow at (203) 938-2782; grashowl@bnpmedia.com.