Corporate Cultures

The Employee Marketer

by Ray Knight and Rob Sanders

           For casino marketing executives, the most terrifying creature on earth is an indifferent employee.  Marketers invest their great store of knowledge, research, intuition, creativity, and just plain energy along with considerable sums of money just to get customers through the door of the casino.  Yet the cleverest and most powerful ad campaign, the best-planned promotion, the most publicized special event can be chopped off at the knees by the employee who fails to deliver what the marketing promises.

     Nothing can be more devastating to marketing credibility than for a customer to ask an employee about the promotional lapel button he or she is wearing and hear, "I dunno...I think there was a memo about it.  They just told me to wear this button."  Or for a customer to inquire "Who's in the showroom tonight?" and be answered by a shrug.

     Savvy casino marketing executives have learned how crucial it is to build a corporate
culture where every employee is a marketer.  Along with the ad plans and promotional calendars,
they include the education and motivation of employees as an integral part of their strategies.

 Making sure employees know what the casino is telling the customers to expect from them and
inspiring to live up to that promise makes the difference between so-so performance (or even utter failure) and a knockout success of the marketing.

     Since it opened in 1994, Treasure Chest Casino has consistently sat atop the performance
charts in the New Orleans area.  Its success owes greatly to the care and feeding the marketing
department gives to the process of including every one of the 1,300 employees in its plans.

     Located in the affluent New Orleans suburb of Kenner, marketers at the Boyd Gaming
property face special challenges.  For one thing, it's a boat.  Louisiana regulations require the boat to leave the dock whenever weather permits.  Players can't come and go as they please. 
By contrast, the newly-opened Harrah's casino in downtown New Orleans, the state's only land-
based casino, allows free access anytime.

 For another, there's New Orleans itself.  Unlike the more prominent gaming venues, New Orleans offers a wealth of interesting and fun things to do besides gaming attractions and distractions that compete with the casino for attention.

 Then there's the Gulf Coast.  New Orleans area casinos fight an uphill battle competing with the Third Coast gaming powerhouse.

     That Treasure Chest maintains its impressive profitability in the face of such daunting
challenges is a testament, at least in part, to the attention given to grooming the employee
marketer.  Marketing Director Ann Wallace told us, "We perceive that the effort we make in
internal marketing is just as, if not more, important as the time we spend marketing to the
customer.  You can have the greatest marketing plan or promotion in the world, and if each
employee is not also selling it, the effort won't reach its potential."

     Wallace said Treasure Chest uses multi-layered tools to keep employees well informed
about what's happening and keeping them interested and involved.  She uses the same reach-and-
frequency techniques for internal marketing that have proven successful in marketing to

     News and information about upcoming marketing "emphasis periods" are first
introduced in department head meetings.  "Department heads are an important link in the process
to support the marketing," Wallace said.  Usually there's some kind of fun activity for managers and employees to loosen things up and get them into the spirit   like an employee slot tournament or blackjack challenge, or an Elvis and Priscilla Look-Alike contest.  'We're not afraid to try something different, even if it's crazy," Wallace said.  "We're not afraid to have fun."

     Employees are regularly issued a laminated pocket-sized "tip card" with monthly calendar
of all events, promotions, premiums, and scheduled entertainment.  Pre-shift meeting
announcements keep them updated on the day's events.  Back-of-the-house signage, tent cards in
the employee dining and break areas. and other vertically-integrated media help reinforce the
current promotion focus.  Two dozen specially-trained line level employees called Boyd Style
Ambassadors serve as "cheerleaders" to whip up enthusiasm and to act as a conduit for
communication about marketing activities.

     "It's not enough just to tell them. We have to get them involved, get them excited. If the
employees have fun, they'll exude that to the customers," said Wallace.  Since most of casino's
customers come back regularly (many visit several times a week), it seems clear that what they
expect is what they get at Treasure Chest.

(This article appeared in the January 2000 issue.)