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
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.
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.)