Marketers focus on non-casino assets

May 16, 2006 2:15 AM

Casino marketing 2006 has never said less about gambling.

"Gaming has reinvented itself," said Derek Rohiffs, vice president of business development and casino marketing for Cascade Promotion Corporation during the two-day G2E Institute seminar at Red Rock Resort.

"Now it’s about non-gaming, about standing out — like Red Rock, like Jet Blue Airlines, like the Ritz Carlton, Harrah’s and the Borgata in Atlantic City," said Rohiffs, whose previous work includes time at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. "The ability to stand out and be unique is the way to market this industry."

Rohiffs said the catch-phrase in marketing is now "retail renaissance."

"Places like the Forum Shoppes at Caesars Palace have been successful in attracting visitors, whether they gamble or not," he said. "When people come to Las Vegas now, they care about what retail is available."

Jim Gentleman, senior vice president of strategy and integration for Schadler Kramer Group Advertising, said it was both an "exciting and scary time" in his business.

"There are so many ways to reach the customer, but how do we go about it?" he said. "This is a day where people have short attention spans. They want everything right up front and easy access, like cell phone text messaging and I-pods. With Tivo’s and satellite radio, it’s difficult to get the advertising word out."

Gentleman said to counter the public’s avoidance of the inundation of ads, it’s necessary to have trendy companies backing your product.

"We’ve been successful marketing with companies like Jack Daniels, BMW, Sharper Image, American Airlines," he said. "Harrah’s and MGM Mirage have taken advantage of this type of marketing. The Borgata wants to be considered the entertainment capital of Atlantic City and has promoted itself through entertainment, spas and dining."

Gentleman calls this new wave of advertising "sub-brands," which has been used to promote golf, nightclubs, restaurants and spas to tourists.

"Email marketing has a major outlet for getting the word out," he said. "We are in an era of nontraditional approaches. It’s no longer, radio, TV and newspapers as the major ad sources. Technology has taken over.

"Not that television is discounted," Gentleman continued. "CSI, Las Vegas, Billboard Awards, and the World Poker Tour have certainly helped promote this city and have especially been a big boost to the success of the Palms."

So where does this leave casino gambling?

"Casinos are still a major drawing point," Rohiffs said. "The best way to promote casinos is through the various Players Clubs that resorts use to increase play in table games and slots. Kiosk-based promotions have become a popular way of attracting new customers."

Victoria Erickson, the session’s moderator and principal at Erickson Communications, took the simple view of casino marketing.

"Word of mouth is still vital," she said. "If people don’t like the experience, they won’t come back."