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Like some of you, I travel through one too many airports. I’m about to start a 6-week schedule of travel that – as happy as I am for the reason for the travel – I’m not looking forward to it. At some point, airports start to feel like the same place to me. Sure the Starbucks locations and newsstands vary, but…nothing stands out.

But on one of my trips, I once noticed a Southwest Airlines’ poster. The headline read “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” This was probably about three years ago, but it stuck with me. The brand refresh had been the first for Southwest in many years. The goal was to remind customers and employees alike that people are at the heart of everything the airline does.

THAT is good stuff. I think it speaks to the Southwest brand and how significant a role their employees play in delivering the experience they’ve promised. 

Without a heart, it’s just a machine

I couldn’t help by note the similarities to a casino. Without a brand promise and our employees, it’s just a box of slots and table games. And, as we think about the continuing discussions around attracting Millenials – and new customers in general – you have to ask “Is a box of slots enough?”

Without a brand promise and our employees, it’s just a box of slots and table games.

There has been a lot of writing about the partnership of marketing and IT, but what about the partnership with operations. After all, operations is truly where the brand rubber meets the road. Right? More importantly, it’s actually the employees themselves that breathe life into what we, as marketers, create.

Are you considering marketing internally as well as externally?

Are you putting in as much care and consideration into your back of house messaging as you do the front of the house?

Or, are you just copying and pasting for the back of the house?

To really engage employees in the brand, you have to give the back of house communications as much care and quality of the work and message as you do to the front. Maybe even more.

You could think of the letters “BOH” as “back of house,” or you could think of them as “begin over here.” All of a sudden, it has much more importance.

How do you ensure consistent brand experiences?

It’s the question that haunts every brand marketer.

Let’s start with hiring and on-boarding.

First and most importantly, you have to make sure your employment brand matches the promise you are giving to customers.

Then, hire the right people for the brand.

Take the time to make sure recruiters and human resources are in agreement and understanding as to exactly what the brand stands for and that it’s a promise to customers and employees, not a just tagline.

Next step is the perfect on-boarding process.

Be open and honest with the state of the business and what it will take to get to success. Explain your brand as more than just a logo, but a culture.

I once worked at a Las Vegas operator where a couple of people actually quit after the first day, and that was ok because they recognized that they couldn’t live up to the standard.

Zappos offers employees a “Pay to Quit” cash payout if they chose to quit during on-boarding. Why? Because it’s more important to have people on the team who understand the vision and are willing to play a role in reaching the goals set.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at their culture book, I recommend you do. It’s a collage of employee thoughts on what the Zappos culture means. It’s the best articulation of all employees being in synch that I have ever seen. We’ll add the link in our show notes.

Amazon also has a pay to quit option, and it’s not just for new hires.

Remember that no heart campaign I saw at the airport? The Southwest brand team recognized how important it was to get everything right internally. Before sharing the rebranding materials with agencies and marketing partners, the brand team initiated process flows for internal approvals, but also hosted webinars and trainings to educate and empower the employees to be successful brand stewards.

In our own industry, MGM’s latest campaign started as an internal shift MONTHS before the public saw it in an ad.

Ask employees for their opinion.

We survey our customers for everything down to what kind of salad dressing they prefer on the buffet. Our employee needs are just as important. But we usually leave that for the annual employee satisfaction survey. We hardly ever ask them about the operation or if they have any ideas?

Have you ever asked anyone outside of your staff meetings for ideas for promotions and events or ways to streamline a process?

When your next planning time comes around, and you’re developing your marketing calendars with the same programs as always, send out a “call for entries.” See what happens when everyone feels free to be creative.

I was blown away with one of the teams I used to work with. When we sat around the table to map out the plan for the following year, they had some great programs they intended on keeping in place, but what really impressed me where the new ideas that were discussed. They came from people on the slot floor or in the buffet or hotel.

They had opened up their ideation to everyone on the property.

And sure, some ideas were never going to be executed, but who is to say the guy picking up trash hasn’t been observant and has come up with a great idea for a promotion?

There were some really creative ideas that felt new and different. As casino marketers, we depend on the good ol’ car and cash drawings. They are the workhorses of our promotions toolkit. But, our dependency on these tried and true performers often keeps us from seeing something new. Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to do that.

Understand what it takes to engage each and every employee.

I recently visited a property and when I asked what was challenging them the most, they said it was getting employees to know what’s going on. You have to wonder if that problem isn’t better off being flipped.

How can you get the message out in a way that employees are willing and able to consume and retain it?

In advertising, you look to understand where people are getting information, but in-house we often assume the daily operating brief and posters in the back of the house are the channels.

If you think about how you are consuming information, you’ll probably realize that it has changed over time. In fact, it probably changes pretty often. What makes us think our fellow employees are using the same channels?

We call IT when the promotions module isn’t working the way we think it should. We call them when the printers break down. Have you called them to ask for ideas that help with communications and sharing throughout the property?

There are a variety of social business software solutions that allow everyone to collaborate and communicate.

When you provide employees with an opportunity to consume information on their own terms, they will.

Think beyond the poster in the EDR.

Most of all think about providing the tools employees need to deliver the promise being given in your communications materials.

Finally, remember what your mom said about your toys.

You need to Share.

Everyone wants to play a part in the success of the business. Bring your teams together and encourage empowerment, engagement and improved performance. 

Share your goals. You don’t have to be the only one watching the numbers. Communicate where you are and where you’re headed. It’ll be nice to have someone else along for the ride.

Most of all, have fun…lots of it! Let’s face it; we’re not performing brain surgery. People come to us to have fun. We work in the entertainment industry. Let’s entertain and BE entertained.

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