‘Brand affinity’
is the ticket!

Jan 30, 2007 12:29 AM

The lessons I learned from my association with Peter Morton, former head honcho of the Hard Rock empire and fuehrer of "Dirty Harry" Morton, a La Lohan one-time flavor of the month (August 2006) are:

”¡ "Don’t charge six dollars for a burger, when a customer is willing to spend eight."

”¡ And "1983 was rock’s most pathetic year (see Mc Cartney’s Pipes of Peace, Dr. Who — The Music, and Todd Rundgren’s The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect).

Even with all of Peter Morton’s eccentricities (when one is poor, one is crazy; when one is rich, one is eccentric), his Hard Rock restaurants and later casino hotel proved that a sometimes maligned business model of lifestyle brand affinity could work.

Let’s face facts: Peter did not get a Gulf Stream V and Shoshanna Lonstein, if Peter was a simple grill jockey.

Peter mastered brand affinity. He sold to the masses the Disney-fied version of the rock and roll lifestyle (the display of Sir Mick Jagger’s white linen suit sans the cocaine fueled back-story making it a relevant rock and roll artifact).

The proof in the cash pudding was his "collectible" T-shirts that cost $3.98 to manufacture and retailed for $20 (a 500 percent mark-up over cost).

Of course for those teenage girls who had daddykins wrapped around their pinky, the premium products like multi-hundred dollar leather bomber jackets and limited edition pins were also on the high mark-up rack.

This model for restaurateur wannabes everywhere was emulated by knock-offs. I am sure that today, if the model had proved more widely applicable, there would be an "American Idol" Café to feed grease-baskets to the delusional "Star Star" masses, who in their heart-of-hearts believe that they are the non-quite dead reincarnation of Whitney Houston.

Unfortunately, for the copy cat cafes of eatertainment, few phenomena are as universal as rock and roll. (Nostalgia introduction harp music here)”¦ remember Models Café, Agassi’s All-Star Cafe, Elvis Presley’s, Planet Hollywood not in Vegas, and my favorite, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) "The World" Café — Hulkamania Rules”¦ Brother”¦ Yeah!!!

What all of these locales attempted was a recipe for deriving ancillary revenue streams to the owners’ pockets. Every themed "eatery" served the same 1/3 pound burgers, but in each locale one might sit under a sweaty cold piece of Rowdy Roddy Piper or Tyra Bank’s rhinestone encrusted whoopin’ stick; all the while longing to purchase a replica of said items in the gift shops for a shockingly high tariff.

Affinity marketing extends the brand experience. Two properties in Central City and Black Hawk respectively perform this task exceptionally well.

The first is the locale of my favorite fountain of root beer, the Dostal Alley. As the only brew pub in CC/BH, the marketing powers exploit this differentiating variable with proprietary comedic slogan T-shirts such as, "Warning: The contents of alcohol may leave you wondering what the hell happened to your bra and panties" and "People who drink light beer don’t like the taste, they just like to pee a lot."

Mmm, subversive.

While both Ameristar and Isle of Capri offer different high priests of gaming vestments such as logo shirts, jackets, and hats, Ameristar takes a clever approach to keeping its name in the conscious forefront.

At the valet area, the sprinty folk hand the guest a bottle of brand labeled water after retrieving the car. This is a clever way to keep the brand name in front of the guest as well as leave a hospitable final impression.

Still, the majority of casinos in Colorado are not taking advantage of not only the extension of brand recognition, but also the possibility of increasing alternative revenue streams through building their properties into profit yielding brand experiences.

(Founded in 1996, Yarborough Planning, LLC partners with select clientele to better understand and address business process issues. Core competencies include training, providing reliable and valid research, strategic / analytic marketing, and accountable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) development and implementation. David Paster is accepting new clients and may be reached at (702) 813-5062 or [email protected])