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Great Brands Draw Cheers

Great Brands Draw Cheers

With hundreds of TV channels and video platforms to choose from, I still find myself surfing the classic TV stations to rewatch sitcoms I grew up on. There’s one show in particular that allows me to give the remote a rest, as well as demonstrate a key point on casino branding in the digital age. That show is Cheers, and aside from being an all-time great comedy that continues to be relevant, its iconic catch-phrase is one I’ve heard many casino marketers cite as the gold standard they seek for their property – a place “where everybody knows your name.”

As appealing a notion as it may be -- developing a brand that is instantly identifiable to the customer’s eyes and ears -- it’s important to differentiate between actual gold and fool’s gold. While instant brand recognition is obviously a chief objective, the pathway to such glory isn’t as it seems. 

Brand Building Blocks

“Where everybody knows your name.” Powerful stuff, huh? The problem, of course, is that the underlying meaning is an intangible ideal, a tall order for even the most experienced and talented of creative marketing teams. Traditionally, we look at branding as a concept built upon the most basic of building blocks, with visual elements that, collectively, establish a running theme that the customer associates with an image and experience. 

Look at billboard advertising, for instance. Or even print ads and websites. How does a casino translate effective, compelling visuals and copy into that intangible ideal? The simple answer is that you don’t. Now don’t get me wrong, engaging visuals are absolutely vital in maintaining an enduring and memorable brand.

However, elements like logo, color scheme, and print layouts can only hope to remind a potential customer about your casino and validate their decision to choose and stay loyal to your brand. Getting customers to that point is what truly creates a brand where everybody knows its name, and that dynamic will always be experiential at heart.

Design Doesn’t Equal Brand

I’m very proud of our team at Marketing Results. We can make design magic that breathes life into any casino’s advertising and marketing channels. However, we still understand that creative works in conjunction with the notion of a brand, and will never be the brand itself.

Branding isn’t color schemes, logos, or even the most memorable of catchphrases. It’s an idea or thought that resides in a customer’s mind and spirit, one that is significantly enhanced by those colors and logos, but not built from them. Marketing and advertising really take off and excel when design matches that preexisting concept of a brand, but can never be a substitute for the brand itself.

Designers are often given intangible concepts to depict and, while those concepts might provide us with a challenge and goal to achieve, the guidance helps us paint a picture and hear a voice but not build a brand. Going back to my Cheers example, if you tell designers to create Cheers in an advertising campaign, several voices and demographic archetypes will come to mind.

Carla had the gruff exterior, but a heart of gold, Coach and Woody were lovable but dopey, and Fraser was a well-educated snob. These are personas, however, and not the brand. You can’t choose one as a basis for visual design. The customer experience, not personas, are what makes the brand. Or to extend the metaphor, develops it to the point where everybody knows its name.

The Customer Experience Creates Your Brand

So what's a casino to do that wants to establish a brand that is instantly recognizable and creates emotional bonds with its target customer segments? Begin by understanding who you are in the present and compare it to whom you want to be. If those two concepts are in alignment, then proceed to the next step that flushes out the brand with visual design and other marketing techniques.

That understanding is rooted in research regarding your customer base as well as your brand's core competencies and pain points. Take a deep dive into the affinities, psychographics, and personality traits that help you build personas and, therefore, provide you with a better grasp of your target customer's likes and dislikes.

From a more internal perspective, a basic, but incredibly useful exercise like a SWOT analysis will reveal your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The mere act of preparing a SWOT analysis alone will show you what you're best at, where you struggle, and what areas deserve your attention -- for better or worse -- relative to the marketplace.

If you were to find that your current standing does not align with your desired one after your research, then it's time to retool, remodel, and re-staff to redefine your brand. Start with things that really matter to your customer base, providing them reasons for wanting to visit your casino in the first place. Do they want elegance and sophistication or a relaxing, social environment? Once again, it's about developing a satisfying customer experience.

Once you're making inroads into that ideal experience, let the customers themselves do much of the work for you by spreading the word about your casino. Let those redefined experiences paint a vivid picture in their mind that, once in place, a designer can then come in and leverage to amplify your brand. But, as the old saying goes, the longest journey begins with a single step. Spending the time and resources on a misaligned brand is like building a skyscraper on top of a bed of sand.

Going back to Cheers, that idealized environment is naturally something to aim for but, ultimately, is the product of many different factors, personas, and other building blocks. From a design perspective, we can develop a creative motif that will expertly portray a brand ideal, but even the best creative only gets you so far. When a design’s promise doesn't match the delivered experience, it can take much longer to correct and change a customer's perspective and attitude towards your brand. In other words, get that customer experience down first, and your brand will fall into place. That's how everybody will know your name.

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