In this uncertain world created by the Coronavirus attack, one thing is for sure … market conditions and marketing will be very different when the gaming industry starts up again.
It will not be productive to blindly hold onto the strategies for a world that – from a few weeks ago – no longer exists.
As the world is at war with the Coronavirus, we will be at war with our patrons’ perception of our casinos and resorts.
Get a Grip on the New Reality
The first thing you must do is assess where you are and admit that it’s a new world.
Your casino property will reopen to an environment of uncertainty created by the Coronavirus. The best strategy is to adapt quickly to the rapid changes and new challenges.
When you reopen, your property will greet a public that will be hesitant to venture out and afraid of the unknown.
I lived and operated from the bull’s eye of Katrina in Ocean Springs, MS. My neighbors’ houses were destroyed, thousands of jobs were lost, and my close friends lost homes.
A few years after moving to the area, a devastating flood rocked the Southern Tier of New York, where I was company President for two casinos. Thousands of friends and neighbors battled flooded homes and business for months.
With Katrina and the Southern Tier floods, the casino business came back strong.
This is a different challenge that will require new thinking.
The result will be the same, but the road will be different.
Shattered casino properties and flooded businesses and homes could be repaired. The specter of a virus will remain for over a year until a vaccine can be created and distributed.
A New Business Model
As casino marketers, we will be faced with creating an environment where the public feels safe.
All the cleaning, sanitizing, wiping down machines, hand sanitizers, and sanitizing wipes will become part of your new message. Deep cleaning the property, hotel rooms, restaurants and spas will be the new normal that will need to be visibly reinforced.
Your brand is what you do different and better than the competition. Now your brand will be about creating a comfort zone where your guests feel safe.
As marketers, you most likely spent the last few days redirecting the marketing messaging and communications through the marketing department and agencies.
Closure communications and the practical issues of shutting down departments dominated your days and nights.
Expenses had to be shut down in media, promotions and direct marketing.
Looking forward, the biggest challenge will be to prepare for reopening when the date is uncertain.
Stagger Reopening Plans
As I write this, no one can be certain when casinos will reopen.
The best strategy now is to create opening plans that are short term, mid-range and months out.
Your energies now should be dedicated to creating plans for each stage.
Keep Your Property Top of Mind
In all cases, now is the time to create frequent social media messages that keep your property’s positive activities top of mind. Did you donate excess food after the shutdown? Is your team deep cleaning the property? Is your hotel installing sanitizers?
Keep positive messaging moving through various channels and stay fresh in the minds of your social media followers.
Strategic Action Steps
- Create opening press releases and social media announcements now to keep ahead of the game. Approval will be speedy when you’re scrambling to open.
- Review your promotional programs and develop simplified versions that can be rolled out quickly and easily. Move promotional efforts that are complicated deeper into the year. Use available promotional models like hot seats and kiosk games to help your property ramp up.
- Develop a direct mail campaign that can be dropped quickly after the decision to open is reached. Consider a welcome back message that will reinforce the new order of facility sanitation and virus deterrent. Additionally, consider if your property will allow guests to use unredeemed March offers when you open. A good recommendation from Raving’s Lynette O’Connell is to provide a single, one-time bonus offer as opposed to jacking up your reinvestment when you open.
- Prepare your reopening media campaign with core messages that help your guests feel safe and secure. The present landscape will require radical thinking. You will not only hang a “Now Open” sign on your property but combine your message to one of safety in public spaces.
- Social media and digital will allow you to further explain and go into deep dives about property safety. The mundane and routine will now become a core message that will be reinforced until someone calls the “all clear” on the coronavirus.