Sometimes, you have to go against the grain and do things the unconventional way.
Which explains why Scott Stratten calls his company “UnMarketing.”
The 44-year-old from Toronto looks at the way casinos and hotels market themselves and he scratches his head. Then he gets angry.
“What we do isn’t necessarily what we should do,” said Stratten, who will be the keynote speaker Wednesday at the 2019 Global Gaming Expo.
Don’t expect to hear Stratten hold back in his address at the Sands Expo Center. He is unfiltered and unvarnished. He doesn’t go out of his way to hurt anyone’s feelings. But he’s not going to sugar-coat things.
“Things are being so overly complicated and it doesn’t need to be that way,” he said. “One of the conundrums for the gaming industry is you’re trying to appeal to a new market but in doing so, you push aside the current market and you alienate those people who made you successful in the first place.
“You go into a casino, you see what’s going on and you say, ‘This isn’t for me’ and you walk out. Sometimes, I think we’re changing the wrong way. That’s going to be the focus of my talk.”
Stratten visits casinos all over the world. He sees the varying levels of customer service and how they are associated with levels of play.
He was recently in a Strip hotel and was looking to extend his checkout time from his room. A customer service representative came over to him where he was playing and asked if there was anything he needed. Stratten, a high-level player in the casino, told him he would like to get a late checkout time.
Instead of taking care of it for Stratten, the CSR directed him to the front desk and told him he could take care of it himself there.
Understandably, Stratten was not pleased.
“What was the point?” he asked rhetorically. “I didn’t need someone to tell me I could do it myself by going to the front desk. I knew that. What I was hoping for was to get some help and that didn’t happen.”
Suffice to say, Stratten has not returned to that property.
“I’m a gambler,” he said. “I’m well versed in everything. I know there’s a lot of moving parts. But at the end of the day, where am I putting my discretionary dollars? Am I going to go where I’m appreciated? Or am I going to a place where they don’t care and they just want my money?”
And don’t get him started on resort fees. He says they’re a ripoff and offensive to customers.
“All they have to do is include it in the price of the room, and not call it a ‘Resort fee,’” he said. “The term ‘Resort fee’ has a negative connotation with people. It’s like you’re playing them for suckers.”
He said the hotels and casinos have no one to blame but themselves for the backlash which has spread to politics as legislation is being crafted to combat resort fees.
“Never has an industry had more information available to it and done less with it,” he said. “I come at it from the angle of the customer. Sometimes we’re in the echo chamber our own industry. We’re so worried about the competition, we don’t listen to the customer.”
Stratten does approximately 50 speeches throughout the year. He’s a consumer advocate and his message is always the same — don’t forget who you’re marketing your product towards.
He likens marketing to interpersonal relationships. At first, everything is wonderful as a couple hits it off. But as time goes on, things start to become stagnant. It escalates to where they get on each other’s nerves and eventually, the relationship dissolves.
“Companies take their customers for granted,” Stratten said. “And they should never do that. They should do everything in order to make them feel wanted and a lot of companies miss the mark.”
Stratten made a comparison to sports. He grew up a hockey fan rooting for the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the Leafs, who haven’t won a Stanley Cup in more than 50 years, kept raising ticket prices while not putting a competitive team on the ice.
Stratten cut ties with his hometown team. He now roots for the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s also planning to follow the Raiders in Las Vegas next year, having already purchased season tickets.
“I love sports,” he said. “My goal is to go to every baseball, every football stadium, every NHL and very NBA arena.”
He sees what the Golden Knights do to market to their fan base and he doesn’t understand why the very casinos that abut T-Mobile Arena, where the Knights play, don’t try to do something similar.
“With social media and other platforms, it is the age of disruption,” he said, coming back to what the theme of his talk will be. “The casinos flipped the wrong way at the wrong time.”