by Dennis Conrad
THOU SHALT STEAL
by Dennis Conrad
(Part of the following column originally appeared in another gaming publication. I wouldn't recirculate it if I didn't like it and think you likely hadn't read it.)
I have been called a "creative" person, which always amuses me, as if I possess some gene or brain cell that enables me to produce something from nothing, sort of like a marketing Merlin who points his magic finger and a casino promotion appears.
To be honest, I don't think I've had an original idea in my life.
I've stolen all of them.
Now let me get that straight - I don't believe I've broken any laws, infringed on any copyrights or trademarks, betrayed any confidential information or otherwise acted unethically.
What I've been able to do, I think, is to become familiar with competitors' casino marketing promotions and strategies, assess their current value and POTENTIAL value, spin some alternatives off of the basic premise and implement the ones that make the most sense.
I know, I know. I'm rationalizing.
Yes, I stole.
And so should you.
But what should you steal? From whom?
So here they are -- THE MARKS! In stealing competitive information nearly everything is fair game. If it helps you increase your business and it's legal, you should do it. That includes "knocking off" the following "marks":
1. ALL CASINOS IN THE WORLD - pretty broad category, I realize. But the point is, if you keep a narrow focus, say casinos in your own market, you will miss many ideas that are generated from an often entirely different perspective. In the past two years, I have seen terrific looking promotions from casinos in Atlantic City, Reno, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, San Jose, and Black Hawk. I will be stealing from them sooner or later.
2. MARKETING GURUS - not all marketing minds are created equal. You probably know a General Manager or Marketing Director in your market who always seems to be coming up with "good stuff" that customers like. Well guess what? You should focus your stealing on this individual's property (or company). You definitely should take him or her to lunch. Just be ready to have your pocket "picked clean" first.
3. DISTRESSED CASINOS - while sometimes these places are going out of business because they don't have a proverbial "clue", usually struggling casino operations are a treasure trove of innovative marketing ideas. Steal ideas on service and operations from the successful blue chip properties, but get crazy (and often potentially "killer") ideas from the flea bag "losers".
4. YOUR OWN EMPLOYEES - your own people are customers (collectively) of every casino in your market. All you have to do is locate your employee gamblers who are opinionated and tend to notice things, then give them a forum. My only suggestion is that you give them a general framework around which to operate ("come up with a concept for a sport-themed slot area"), rather than allow them to blindly brainstorm.
5. YOURSELF - if you work for a casino company that has properties in other jurisdictions, you need to be tapping your own folks. It used to be that sister properties acted more like competitors - try getting their VIP player list! - but now properties can not afford to NOT cooperate. And get off your high horse if you're in a high profile market. Yes, you can learn from the "cowboys" in Laughlin and Tunica.
6. CASINO MARKETING COLUMNISTS - I don't mean to toot my horn here, but if you're not reading John Romero, Howard Klein or this column, you're missing about 100 years of marketing experience for free (unless you actually paid for your subscription.)
7. INTERVIEWS WITH CEO's - there are a variety of publications - and not
all gaming ones - where you can catch an interview with a casino company CEO. These are smart people. When they speak, listen.
8. FINANCIAL REPORTS - I've always been amazed at how 100 page strategic marketing plans can be reduced to one paragraph (sometimes one sentence) in a company financial report. Seeing the picture that way will help to simplify your focus and understand where the hodgepodge of marketing ideas that you steal in the field actually fits in a company's success, or lack of it.
9. COMPANIES AND CONSULTANTS OUTSIDE THE GAMING INDUSTRY - Nordstrom's. Wal-Mart. Southwest Airlines. Disney. Tom Peters. Leonard Berry. Ken Blanchard. Do you doubt that you can steal anything of value from these companies or people??!!! (Peters is my personal favorite.)
10. GAMING CUSTOMERS - the best marketing information that can be stolen is from gaming customers. Your own. The competition's. It's like taking candy from a baby. Corral one at the casino bar. Call one on the phone. Walk up to one at a slot machine. Sit next to one at a casino special event. In fact, that's not called "stealing" - it's called doing your job. Because if you're not in touch with real, live, breathing customers, well that IS a crime.
Date Posted: 02-Dec-2001
DENNIS CONRAD is the president of Raving Consulting Co. which specializes in Common Sense, Customer Focused, Marketing Consulting for the gaming industry. He can be reached at: 475 Hill Street, Suite G, Reno, NV 89501 (775) 329-7864 fax (775) 329-4947 email: TheRadcon@aol.com.