A story about an alligator, a promotion, and saying goodbye to a very dear friend
Trinket Story #1 – When your promotion is failing, maybe it’s because your guests just don’t “get it.”
A number of years ago, one of my casino clients implemented a promotion that I had recommended. I was seeing success with a gift program in which guests earned points during a day of slot play and received a bejeweled trinket box. You’ve seen them: the palm-sized box, available in a variety of designs, decorated with crystals, unique in that they open so a small gift or item can be stored inside (think cash or coins, an engagement ring, love note). The appeal of these boxes to casino customers had surprised me, but measurable results were being achieved in diverse markets, driving incremental visits and revenue.
The first time that my Louisiana client employed the promotion, the trinket box was an alligator, themed to their geographic area for appeal to a primarily local clientele. I happened to be at the property on a consulting visit the day the promotion was rolled out. Starting at 8:00 AM, slot players could take home an alligator trinket box after earning a designated number of club points. By noon, only a handful of gifts had been distributed. I was concerned … occupancy didn’t match participation, and we had previously discussed all the factors that would yield a positive outcome. Why didn’t anyone want the alligator?
I suggested to the Marketing Director that we go down to the casino floor to check things out. The monthly mailer had been sent to players, advertising the trinket box promotion. But on the floor there was only one sign, in front of the players club, reminding guests about the promotion. There was no display of the gifts at the club or anywhere else on the floor, including the many slot areas. Although the marketing team knew that the promotion was taking place, why would it be top-of-mind to guests who had received their mailer several weeks earlier?
It was time for quick collaboration and creativity. What could we do RIGHT NOW that would breathe life into this one-day promotion before the opportunity passed? We did three things. Additional signs were printed and placed around the large casino at critical locations: entrances, dining areas, slot areas. A large display was created at the players club by stacking the beautifully designed black boxes holding the gifts, topped with the actual alligator trinket boxes for visibility. And we engaged the security officers already posted at the five casino entrances … each carried a single black gift box, the top embossed with the silver Zanzibar logo, the inside lined with silk, containing the alligator trinket box. Every guest who walked through the door was shown the day’s opportunity: earn 250 club points today, and you can take home this gift. And look, it even opens … check this out. They could see it, touch it.
By 3:00 PM, casino players had earned more than 200 trinket boxes. We figured it out. Collaboration, creativity, adaptability. I have always believed that there are only five or six different promotions … all you have to do is tweak them, personalize them, make them your own, and be sure that your customers KNOW ABOUT THEM. The alligator was only the first trinket box offered by this property. They continued the program with a series of three Mardi Gras frogs and later, a fleur-de-lis trinket box when the Saints won the Super Bowl, to name a few.
Trinket Story #2 – The passionate and innovative man behind the trinket boxes, who never stopped fighting.
I met Jason Greenstein about ten years ago or so, when he was selling a version of trinket boxes for a promotional products company out of Las Vegas. We started talking about more effective ways of marketing those items to casinos (B2B) and, more importantly, to guests (B2C), and within months, Jason took the idea and ran with it, starting the Zanzibar brand and his own company, Green Man Group. I loved the product concept and could see its application in driving gaming revenue. I loved Jason’s willingness to collaborate, his openness to creating unique items and programs individualized to casinos, and most of all, I loved his passion to offer better designs, better quality, better pricing, and better service to clients. He was a smart businessman, a compassionate friend, and an outstanding partner for his clients. If it looked like an order might be late in arriving, I have known him to pick up the items and drive through the night to personally deliver the trinket boxes to his clients.
Jason and I would meet a few times a year, usually at a conveniently located Starbucks not far from my Las Vegas home (once we even met at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver), and we’d brainstorm ideas for casinos to leverage his trinket boxes. We designed several together … I was most thrilled with the three-car train set we created for a casino in Carson City. He’d always bring samples of the newest items, excited to watch me open each Zanzibar-embossed gift box, remove the trinket nestled in the silk lining, look inside, admire the workmanship. We’d spend a couple hours shooting the breeze, updating each other on our personal lives, coming up with new themes for trinket boxes and concepts for using them, discussing his latest casino clients and potential clients, scheming about ways that non-profits might raise money with trinket boxes, creating a frequent visitor program with punch cards, developing themed boxes for other businesses. I’m sorry that we never found the time to develop the Westin duck program. I never made a penny from our interactions or his sales; I merely enjoyed them. He was a terrific partner for his clients. And we had an unusual industry partnership, as well.
On August 10, 2016, Jason passed away after a nearly seven-year battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His case was so rare and his treatment so experimental that a story was published about it in the New York Times. Ironically, he died cancer-free, but succumbed to complications of a late-stage bone marrow transplant and extreme chemotherapy that was part of his treatment. Jason was still in his forties. He was ill most of the time that I’d known him, but he never stopped being optimistic, funny, excited about his work, passionate about his clients, and filled with joy about the future. I’ll miss him. And all of those casino marketing folks who used the Zanzibar trinket boxes at their properties and worked with Jason will miss him, too.