Ghostbusters for Promotions Past


We all have ghosts.

Ghosts of promotions past we wish we never met.

After years in casino marketing, I have my own special ghosts. I take full responsibility for my ghosts.

Take the Groundhog Day promotion. A brilliant concept, I thought.

We got our guests to swipe at the kiosk and select whether the Groundhog will see, or not see his shadow. A fifty/fifty choice.

Players who chose correctly were given a reward on the big day when Punxsutawney Phil did his annual forecast.

Even as company President, I was enthused enough to step into a ratty, smelly and scary Groundhog suit and hand out entries.

Did the promotion work? Did the guests care.


But, in true Groundhog Day form, we did the same promotion again. A Ghost Promotion.

This leads me to the question. Why do so many casino marketing departments hold onto promotional ghosts?

We’ve all done it.

We keep promotions going, sometimes for years, well beyond their usefulness, like walking dead or zombie promotions.

Maybe the Tribal Council likes the promotion; or the owner insists you keep running a promotion longer than it is productive. I get that.

Over and over I see casinos in a repetitive cycle of generating similar promotions. Sometimes it’s the same promotion and sometimes it’s the same promotion with different skins or branding.

How many times can a hot seat shape shift into a new theme and not burn out?

Five Ghostbusters

Let’s look at five ways to help keep your promotional schedule generating incremental revenue.

  1. Analysis If you do anything as a casino marketer, insist on tracking all promotions. Tracking promotions gives you the opportunity to develop analysis that can reveal the difference between profitable and not profitable programs. Comparing each promotion with a pro and post forma is a good start that can lead to comprehensive month over month, year over year promotional tracking. If your analysis shows the promotion is a financial loser, or you are upside down on expense vs. revenue, shut down the promotion and bust the ghost.
  2. Talk to Your Guests Do you conduct scheduled dinners, on-site focus groups, or daily surveys to obtain guest feedback? Casino guests are not shy about sharing opinions. Guest opinions are the true front lines. Though guests will often request programs you cannot afford or are not practical, buried somewhere in guest opinion is always the truth.
  3. Nothing is New (or, Very Little) When your promotional schedule starts to repeat itself, take a virtual trip across the country and review casino web sites. Casinos publish all current promotions. Most include click-thru promotional program details. If you’re not in a competitive market, contact the director or manager who runs a promotion you admire and get details. Mining the virtual database of casino promotions across the country is an easy, free way to keep current.
  4. Off the Wall Try something new that might be off the wall. Look at other industries. What is working in retail, hotels, on social media, in sports? Look for industries that have the same issues as casinos … getting new patrons into a property and into a database.
  5. Watch Out for Layering Layering is a common issue in the casino industry. Was guest spend driven by promotion “A” or promotion “B”? Did the concert drive business, or was it the promotion and direct mail offers? Running analysis of simultaneous promotions will show layering. Look at your reinvestment analysis to determine if you are giving too much to a segment of players at certain times.

Analysis and Attitude

Ghostbusting living dead promotions requires a combination of analysis and attitude. As a casino marketer you should keep a constant, watchful eye on the ROI for each program. Always be vigilant looking out for hidden promotional burnout.

The key to Ghostbusting is never rest when it comes to your promotional calendar. If you do, you might get slimed.

Tom Osiecki