Las Vegas has had its share of issues recently when it comes to driving young visitors to the city. My question is why.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Las Vegas. And while I do get the occasional hand of blackjack or craps session in, I’m spending a lot more of my time out there working on a number of pretty exciting projects. Every time I’m in the city, I talk to as many people as possible and try to observe whatever I can when it comes to younger tourists – millennials in particular – hitting the tables and walking the casino floors. If there’s one thing I can say for certain – and there’s no shortage of people who agree with me – it is that Las Vegas has a problem getting younger players in the door. There have been some successes, sure; but in terms of long-term audience growth and loyalty, there seems to be an element missing in Las Vegas marketing campaigns that can drive home those grander objectives.
I’m trying to pinpoint what it is.
Recession-Proof No More
2016 was the first fiscal year since 2008 that major casino brands in Las Vegas combined to turn a profit on their $25 billion+ revenues. That’s a very good thing for these organizations, but it is important to note that this profit was aided in large part by the growth in restaurants, nightlife, and other forms of entertainment. Gambling and overall casino resort revenues were hurt significantly after the crash, and customer loyalty is still something that a lot of these brands are looking for, particularly when it comes to new players. But marketing seems to be hit or miss, and rebranding efforts have a steep drop off in terms of their effectiveness almost immediately after the initial windfall of success.
There are a lot of reasons why a campaign might be a success or failure, or why efforts to rebrand might only lead to temporary success. We’re not interested quite as much in those variables or intangible aspects. What I want to know is whether or not there exists a central, consistent explanation for the seemingly endless failed efforts to build new audience loyalty with Vegas first-timers and millennial visitors. From what I can tell (and have studied) it has a lot to do with the roots of these relationships.
Let’s get one thing straight: Las Vegas is a fast-moving environment that is almost always working in the beta testing version of marketing and technology. There has long been an attempt to leverage trends as aggressively as possible in order to appeal to audiences all over the world and drive as much consistent traffic as the market can. In doing so, core relationships have not been developed as broadly as they should have been, and the focus of marketing departments across the city has been on big ticket, singular items. This was the way marketing and advertising worked for the longest time, but a new generation of millennial consumers are more interested in a degree of reciprocity, rather than flash. Don’t get me wrong, the flash is still appreciated, and the focus of these marketing departments is not completely flawed, only missing that little bit of extra attention to the personalization side of things in order to really see results that have a lasting impact.
In my new book (shameless plug) Marketing to Millennials for Dummies, I talk a lot about the millennial desire for connection to a brand through personalization and attentiveness in order to build loyalty. This is something that the Las Vegas market more or less pioneered through the expansion of loyalty programs (such as Total Rewards or Mlife) but have since overlooked. It’s time to get back to the little things.
The Solution (Or, The Roots of a Solution)
This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of problem. If anything, in fact, this is more like a one-size-fits-one solution. (Maybe a little bit more than one, but you get the idea.) Las Vegas is back on the upswing, which means that there is an opportunity to focus, once again, on innovation and change, rather than clawing for survival. That all starts with a use of the mountains of data that casino resorts have access to thanks in large part to the growth of data points that we’ve witnessed over the last eight years.
Data at the core of any program will make it stronger. That is a fact, and I have the data to prove it. (Ha!) Las Vegas as an industry has more data than almost any other industry on the planet. That information needs to be used in order to begin developing more customized communications. What’s more, a closer look at the day-to-day life of millennial consumers needs to be taken into account, and the norms of technological integration into that day-to-day need to be adopted. Mobile has largely been neglected, despite the fact that mobile is where millennial life takes place. Marrying data, behavior, and technology is crucial to the growth of the loyal millennial audience in Las Vegas, and it is still an area where the market needs to improve.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is a simple fix. We’re talking about a major paradigm shift with lots of moving parts. This isn’t a question of flipping a switch. However, if the focus of Las Vegas marketing can move away from only looking at the large scale and start to incorporate the minutiae, there is a lot of hope for building that loyalty the market has been so desperate to find when it comes to millennial visitors and players.
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