Over the past two months, I have attended two events related to the casino industry, both times as a speaker. What's interesting is the fact that I was invited to speak at all; not because I don't think I'm an OK speaker (although I dread public speaking), but because these types of events, which I have attended in the past, are usually centered around operations. Topics like surveillance, the latest slot machines, table optimization; this is the stuff of casino conferences. Marketing is usually also included, but has historically revolved around offline (casino floor) marketing, as well as player retention (offline database marketing) related to direct mailings and the like.
Not this year. This is the year casinos in Asia are getting on track with digital marketing.
Both events included quite large audiences, and both were centered around digital marketing (also referred to by casino execs as "new media") and how casino marketers need to get with the program to maintain their most loyal customers while growing the base at the same time. And if they can go through this process while offering better services and actually saving marketing dollars, the only question remaining is where they go to sign up!
Having worked in the Asian gaming industry for several years, I can tell you the marketing demands are quite complex, while the mediums used are rather old school. We still see the incredibly expensive use of direct mail in the form of brochures and postcards that have been totally customized to fit each gamer's profile.
Instead of social media to grow the brand and engage with customers, we see roadshows that include pricey events and trade shows that require massive sales teams to execute. Search engine optimization? Flashy websites that look cool but offer no visibility are often the norm. It's not to say casinos shouldn't use some of these traditional methods, but it's definitely a sign of the times in that they are looking to digital experts to assist with their marketing efforts.
A few key areas that can easily be digitized include:
1. Database marketing: Currently managed in Asia through traditional direct mailers, the move to EDM marketing has already begun. Unfortunately, segmentation has yet to be mastered.
2. Social media: Attempts have been made across the region to learn from their Las Vegas counterparts (who do it so well in America). However, we yet to see many casinos that are able to offer serious traction and engagement. Part of this is due to cultural segmentation, which often has the casino looking to engage with customers from three to four or more language-based locations. With regards to China, we rarely see any engagement on those networks at all.
3. Website and search marketing: A result of the bright lights and neon, casino websites are often flashy and include a lot of images, video, and often music! Best practices for web development are largely overlooked, and as a result, branding via search engine optimization (SEO) and other traditional methods is pretty much non-existent.
4. Online gaming: This is the key to the city for many casinos. Brands are looking to engage with their customers online. Those that can help them do this (all the while navigating the legal and political circus that's involved) will find themselves and their agencies inundated with requests from brands looking to extend their reach to loyal customers through online portals.
With the gaming industry rapidly expanding in Asia beyond just Macau and Singapore, it's safe to say this is a great potential target for online marketing and digital experts. Expansions in Southeast Asia and (eventually) Japan, as well as increasing competition in places like Macau should be an attention grabber for agencies and professionals looking to expand portfolios to include lady luck.
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Chris Wieners comes from a 10-year background in hospitality and tourism digital marketing working in the USA and Asia for companies including Starwood Hotels and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. At Starwood Hotels, Chris worked for 18 properties across Hawaii and French Polynesia managing digital marketing campaigns including several aimed specifically at the Japanese and Korean markets. In his most recent role, Chris was responsible for over 4,000 hotel rooms across three casino resorts in Macau. Chris is currently the vice president of Hogo Digital, an organisation that specialises in helping clients reach the Chinese consumer via the digital space. For more information on Chris or Hogo Digital, check out their profiles on LinkedIn or the company website .