Branding is a crucial part of any business and its marketing. It helps customers identify your products and services and gives your company a distinct identity that makes it easier for others to remember. But there is a myth that your brand is your logo.
On the outside, it may look like your brand is all about the logo and tagline, but in truth, several elements below the surface create the brand. Business owners (and some marketers) are still asking whether they should invest in branding. The answer is, “Yes.” I say this both as one who earns a modest living creating brands and as someone lucky enough to develop meaningful brands.
Today’s marketer has many avenues to build brand awareness, credibility, and sales. Unfortunately, many still cling to old-fashioned thinking when promoting a business, relying on advertising rather than engagement, which is why they ask such a silly question.
The uninitiated may not realize that their perception of a company is the sum of everything they experience, even unconsciously — service, messaging, logo, products, and reputation, to name a few. When all of these elements work together, the brand can be healthy, but like a body, all it takes is one thing to be sore or broken to make everything less cohesive.
Branding and everything that goes into it is vital to any casino. Branding is crucial when customers, employees, and investors can easily research a company to find the best fit for their time and wallets. Moreover, with the vast number of brand messages consumers are exposed to daily (perhaps even hourly), some may say a strong brand is more important than ever. Strong brands will stand out in a crowd.
As we head into our favorite time of year, the planning and budgeting season, it is an opportune time to review and determine what you want people to say about you to their friends, to strangers reading reviews, and to their social and business networks. You can take some control now to develop and manage your brand to a market advantage.
Why Casino Branding Matters
The bad news is that the world of casino brands has (sadly) historically been one of logos and graphics. The good news is that there is a huge opportunity. Huge!
According to the American Gaming Association’s State of Play, there are nearly 1000 casinos in the United States. That number does not include card rooms, locations with electronic gaming devices, or mobile betting. If you add those into the mix, the number of options for someone to place a wager skyrockets. Moreover, as of this writing, more jurisdictions are approving or considering mobile wagering in the form of sports betting and online casinos.
A respected brand will always win when faced with so many easily accessible options.
Casino Marketing Building Blocks
A casino marketer’s toolkit has the same tools as most businesses, but we often use the tools a little differently.
For example, rather than putting our slot floor on sale, we deliver offers and rewards based on a sliding scale adjusted by a customer’s worth. We are geniuses (which is no exaggeration) when it comes to leveraging a database and understanding the most valuable customers.
Player’s card programs may look like typical frequent shopper programs, but the reinvestment and rewards are almost always based on the (carded) play of the customer rather than a blanket formula of earn and get.
VIP is a vital piece of any casino marketer’s plan. Casinos are still seeing the Pareto Rule in action. Nearly 80% of our revenue comes from about 20% of the database. However, casino customers can be promiscuous, sharing their gambling budget with almost all of our competitors to one degree or another. So, the object of the VIP marketing game becomes getting the largest share of that wallet. We do that with a variety of host touch points and exclusive events.
The use of advertising is more likely to resemble other industries. We want to get the best message to the right audience through the proper channels at times when viewers, readers, and listeners are more likely to pay attention to our message. Our mastery of database marketing can give us an edge in messaging and channels.
But branding can give us an advantage, not only across all of these building blocks but also in how we recruit and retain team members and work with vendors and other stakeholders. Moreover, as casinos expand their offerings into the online and mobile space, being the top choice is crucial.
Bill Chiaravalle and Barbara Findlay Schenck, authors of Branding for Dummies, will tell you, “More than any quality – even more than strong financial statements, great management, or terrific product or service ideas – brands are the key to winning long-term growth and success… By building a brand, you cast a strong, clear vision of what you stand for. Without a brand, you blur into a dime-a-dozen, one-seems-just-like-another category called commodities. In a sea of similar choices, branding differentiates and elevates your offering, paving the way for awareness, preference, selection, and profitability.”
With 1000 gaming options, we must differentiate ourselves from the risk of commoditization.
1. Visual Branding Elements are Readily Recognized
The apparent reason for building a casino brand is to aid target customers in recall. The more you are recognized, the more likely you will stimulate a visit. Additionally, suppose you’ve created a distinctive logo, attractive colors, and graphics that resonate with your target. In that case, the more cohesive your branding will begin to appear and the more likely it will be to stay top of mind (or at least in the vicinity.)
Your brand is what the world – outside of the four walls of your business – thinks of you. Brands tell the world what you stand for with every color, word, and image you use. Effective branding makes you memorable, so customers can easily find you. Let’s face it. Today everyone Googles you or asks for recommendations before doing business with you. Online or off, your brand and how it is presented matters.
A solid visual brand helps you stand out from competitors. It makes you memorable and recognizable. And it gives you credibility or at least a start at credibility.
2. Branding Shapes How the World Sees You
But branding takes time. It takes effort. Creating an engaging brand can assist you in reaching your business’ highest potential, but it takes strategy and vision. Slapping a logo everywhere and calling it a day is the opposite of strategic branding. A properly formed brand gives you dividends over time. The brands you see every day would not be as successful without a well-thought-out branding strategy.
3. Branding Builds Trust
Trust is not easy to gain, but audience trust might be one of the most important and valuable things your business can possess. Branding tells people very early on what they can expect from your company. Likewise, it can signal to potential employees what to expect for their career with you. Creating a solid brand is an investment in your business and can indicate to potential stakeholders that you are credible and dependable.
Customers will do business with you when they understand (and like) who you are. As your brand is reinforced in their lives, they will begin to trust you, maybe even love you. The more they believe you, the more they will spread your vision through referrals, reviews, and word-of-mouth marketing.
4. Strong Brands Build Loyalty
One of the most significant benefits of branding is customer loyalty. When customers form strong bonds with your brand, your marketing can continue even when you’re not actively doing so. We see this every day on social media and review sites. Strangers, friends, and family are continually sharing their brand stories.
We want customers to return again (and again.) Customers can connect with strong brands that have a human side. The emotional elements in branding provide connection and comfort to loyal customers. Moreover, if you create a brand people care about, you will put yourself ahead of business with weaker (or nonexistent) brands.
5. Branding Improves Your Advertising
I have seen general managers give it a shot, but your casino will not get as far as you would like without advertising. Branding and advertising — though separate — are like peanut butter and jelly. They work better together.
Advertising without strong branding will send a cacophony of messages that can feel strange and disjointed to your target audience.
Branding goes beyond the logo and is directly related to the promised and delivered experiences and reflects our brand personality. Consistency in communications and reality will elevate the recognition of your advertising and can aid in attracting influencers, investors, and other stakeholders.
6. Branding Inspires Your Employees
We all want happy employees that will stay with us for a long time because they are committed to the mission. A company with great branding can win on the customer side, but the true benefit and growth will happen when employees feel connected and involved in something bigger than “a job.”
Along with branding activities on the customer side, you want to invest in branding that will keep employees motivated. Some might equate this with branded apparel and merchandise. Still, brand marketers owe a responsibility to the brand to examine the employee experience and flag touchpoints that break the bond between the brand and the employees. Creating unity with the brand results in long-term growth and lower expenses.
7. Great Brands Reap Financial Dividends
Branding may seem like an expensive and daunting task for small or independent casinos, but the result is that you will look like a more significant business. A strong brand will help elevate your casino and how you are compensated for your work in revenue and investment.
New properties and expansions are uniquely positioned to begin with a strong brand strategy. You can get away with acting like a commodity for a while, but when faced with multiple competitors in a market, connecting to a brand and cultivating loyal customers will make the difference between long-term success and failure.
Customers will identify with your brand values and be more accepting of premium pricing than what they are willing to pay for unbranded products. Adding amenities and additional gaming options will be easier if you have implemented an appropriate brand strategy because the brand is recognizable, and customers will immediately understand and accept an inherent set of values.
Companies that are publicly traded are typically valued at a multiple of assets which can include the value created through solid branding. Moreover, a more powerful and consistent brand will generate a better financial return for your efforts.