Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Time Poverty Affecting Casino Biz

September 2, 2009: summarized from Hotel Interactive -- Turns out the gambling business isn’t recession proof after all. The industry has clearly been hit in this economic downturn as well as by the proliferation of legalized gaming throughout the country. Now in most places, folks can travel a short distance to play games of chance rather than have to board an airplane to visit places such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

But interestingly enough one result of all this tumult is that casino companies are getting more engaged in creating winning experiences that ups the ante on fun, and hopefully puts more dollars into the casino resort owner’s pockets.

During the last decade many casino resorts have done a tremendous job of upping the percentage of revenue taken from off the casinos floor – that’s industry parlance for cash earned in places such as the hotel, shows and F&B. However, many are looking to get people back on the casino floor by making games more user friendly an personalizing the gaming experience.

It makes sense too. Hoteliers have quickly caught on that creating highly personalized experience immunizes against industry downturns, protects pricing and gets people to spend more. Now casino resorts are using that same concept to more fully engage people with better gambling experiences.

"Given that a lower proportion of U.S. travelers are planning to take an international trip during the next two years, the results of this year's MONITOR underscore the high degree of interest in travel within the United States. And the data suggest there is a wonderful opportunity for preferred destinations to capitalize on this trend," says Peter C. Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Ypartnership.

Casinos resorts have proven time and again to be a favored destination for travelers. It’s a good thing too because according to the 2009 Active Gambler Profile by WMS Gaming, nearly nine in 10 active casino gamblers have taken one or more overnight leisure trips at least 75 miles away from home during the past 12 months. Over four-fifths of active casino gamblers played in a casino on one or more overnight trips, averaging nearly two overnight trips during the past 12 months. Among those who gambled in a casino on an overnight trip, nearly one-half spent an average of $100 or more per day on gambling during their visits. Approximately eight in 10 active casino gamblers have visited a land-based casino that is part of a hotel or resort during the past 12 months.

Additionally, about one in five (18 percent) are Active Avid gamblers who take 10-or-more day or overnight trips to gamble each year, the survey said. Active Avid gamblers are primarily non-Hispanic Whites, married, have an annual household income from $75,000-$149,000, and are Boomers (39 percent).

“There is a sense of time poverty that is changing the way people behave,” said Rob Bone, VP marketing with WMS Gaming, a company that makes slot machines.

So how can resort operators keep people playing longer – and thereby create more profits?

Nearly half (45 percent) of active gamblers also said they feel they don’t have enough vacation time, while almost as many (42 percent) agreed they don’t have enough personal time, or time just for themselves. The sense of “vacation deprivation” is not without foundation. Americans average 13 vacation days annually despite having 18 available to them, according to research conducted in 2007 by the World Tourism Organization (WTO). By comparison, Italy's vacation day average is 42 days; Germany's 35; and Japan's 25, WTO found, said Bone.

“We have fought through the economic downturn by taking the gaming experience to a new level. Slot machines are much more interactive these days,” said Bone.

Take the recently introduced Star Trek game. Players can get a unique log in for the game (more than 500,000 so far) and can return to their game at a future time or date. The benefit here is the game unlocks new levels and experiences making it more appealing than other slots where people simply play long enough to play a bonus round and then consider moving to a new machine.

According to the Profile, active gamblers are drawn to unique and unduplicated gaming experiences. They’re also interested in playing on machines tied to others nearby for a more shared experience and are craving sensory immersion.

“The lines of separation are narrowing more and [casino resort operators] can take advantage of elements from in-home entertainment experiences and leverage it on the casino slot floor,” said Bone.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/nh24N

Facebook's Mobile User Base Reaches 65 Million

September 4, 2009: summarized from Mobile Internet -- Facebook has revealed that the number of people using the mobile internet to access its sites has more than trebled in the past eight months.

The social networking business launched its first mobile website in 2006 and grew its user base to 20 million by the beginning of 2009.

Its mobile websites have since skyrocketed in popularity, with Facebook's latest figures showing that more than 65 million people now regularly access its sites from mobile devices.

The company has taken plenty of forward-thinking steps to encourage the use of its mobile websites, including launching a version optimised for people using touchscreen smartphones and making its Facebook Connect application available to mobile users.

Its success also suggests that social networking sites could be useful platforms for professionals planning mobile marketing campaigns, as any ads or promotions run on the sites could potentially reach millions of consumers.

Pathe recently used Facebook as part of its mobile marketing campaign to promote the horror film Tormented, by sending SMS and MMS advertisements containing links to a competition page on the social networking site to people in its target audience group.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/wJ0SP

Mobile Marketing: The Big Picture

CM Comment: Great top-level look at mobile marketing and its various components.

September 2, 2009: summarized from AdWeek -- Years from now, when the mobile phone really is the remote control for life, historians will best be in position to gauge the 2007-09 contributions of Steve Jobs and Apple's iPhone.

One may argue that the iPhone did more for the advancement of mobile marketing than any other piece of hardware.

According to a recent survey from Crowd Science, 38 percent of smart phone owners who don't own an Apple iPhone would "probably" or "definitely" switch when making their next purchase. That article isn't looking to demystify the iPhone, but it does aim to highlight an important point: Despite the unbounded enthusiasm for the device and the mania surrounding its mobile applications, the iPhone represents only a small fraction of today's opportunity for marketers.

As of the end of second-quarter 2009, Apple had sold "only" 26 million iPhones, according to Apple (I agree the number is incredibly impressive, but let me finish). What this means is that there are approximately 244 million mobile phone subscribers in the U.S. who are not using the iPhone, according to statistics provided by CTIA.

Translation: If you are dedicating a significant amount of your marketing budget and effort to targeting just 9 percent of your potential audience, you're selling yourself short.

The reality is that mobile marketing is not a one-hit wonder, but rather a robust pyramid comprised of several layers that individually and collectively can elevate a brand's awareness and drive positive consumer action. At the bottom is SMS. According to CTIA, more than 160 million people in the U.S. are on a text plan and the average age of a "texter" is 38. Taking these numbers into account it should surprise no one to discover that SMS gives brands the greatest reach and taps into the behaviors and interests of hundreds of millions, all through a simple 160-character message. SMS is a proven mobile-marketing weapon that is driving brand awareness right now.

As you move up the pyramid, the next layer introduces mobile Web/WAP sites. According to the Kelsey Group, there are 54.5 million mobile Internet users on a regular basis. Add to that the fact that more than 172 million phones are capable of browsing the Web and it's easy to the see the value these sites can bring to a brand.

Moving up the pyramid, you come to the social networking tier. Did you know that in January alone, comScore reports more than 27 million people accessed a social networking site from their mobile phone? Furthermore, experts from CCS Insight recently released the results of "Report on Mobile Internet Usage, 2009," which found that a third of young adults are regularly accessing Facebook and Twitter from their mobile phones. By creating a branded Facebook page, companies can connect with this audience, giving them a chance to engage with the brands they care about as well as other brand devotees, all from their mobile phone.

On the next tier of our pyramid resides the mobile banner ad. The banner has been a core component of online advertising campaigns for years and now is making its mark in the mobile world. One example is Wiley Publishing. As part of its mobile marketing campaign, the makers of the For Dummies series launched a series of banners ads that in about three months delivered more than 1.3 million impressions and produced a 1.4 percent click-through rate, which is four times that of the more traditional online component, according to Wiley. This superior click-through rate agrees with findings from Verizon Wireless, which at the 2009 Mobile Advertising Degree conference shared its experiences. Specifically, Verizon found its mobile banner ad click-though rates to be 2 percent, compared to the .3 percent achieved from the online counterparts.

The final layer of the mobile-marketing pyramid ironically brings us right back to where we started -- the mobile application. While it's true that the number of iPhone users pales in comparison to the total number of mobile users, the fact is that adoption is growing and the power and influence of these applications will undoubtedly follow suit. Add to that the emergence of the BlackBerry App Store, the Google Android Application Store and the upcoming releases of the Windows Marketplace for Mobile (the new application store for Windows Mobile) and it's easy to see how mobile applications will become more pervasive and influential. In fact, Jupiter reports that revenues from mobile applications will top $25 billion by 2014.

The mobile phone may fit nicely into your pocket, but mobile marketing's limits reach much farther. Whether your brand taps into one layer or all layers, the opportunities exist to drive your brand to new heights, and the iPhone is just part of the equation.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/xzn0L

Social Media Games In Action

CM Comment: A fun example of social media in-use.

September 3, 2009: summarized from CNN.com -- This summer a San Francisco cafe called the Marsh began advertising to passersby that Foursquare "mayors" of its establishment could get free drinks.

Few customers know what that means. But as a promotional effort, the strategy has worked -- primarily because the strategy itself is interesting, which makes for a good local news story, which generates publicity and traffic.

Foursquare's founders hope that the service itself, not just publicity about it, will drive more traffic in the future.

The start-up, just three people working out of New York, began operations in January and launched the service in March. So far, Foursquare has a presence in about two dozen cities, nearly all in the U.S.

Foursquare is a social media "game" -- or tool, depending on how you view it -- that's accessed from smart phones and computers. Most users are on iPhones.

They can meet each other, write or read tips about a particular restaurant (such as what's good on the menu), or earn a "School Night" badge, for instance, by checking in to a venue after 3 a.m. on a weekday.

It's all light-hearted, the system can be gamed, and most players don't take it too seriously. Still, there is casual competition, especially to become mayor of a venue, which happens when you visit a place more than anyone else in the past 60 days.

Being tiny, the company does not yet make sales pitches to venues, or charge them to run promos on their Foursquare page. That was never, in fact, part of the plan. It was venues themselves that started, without prompting, to offer discounts to Foursquare mayors, using Twitter or sidewalk signs to get the message out.

"That's when we started thinking about how we could start working more closely with local merchants," says cofounder Dennis Crowley.

Now they encourage users to approach venues -- a sort of crowd-sourced evangelizing. The Marsh Cafe got its promo idea from a customer.

Eventually Foursquare might hire a sales team and charge a small fee for promos. Venues could choose from discount schemes and get stats on things like numbers of check-ins and how users behave -- for instance, do they tend to visit that nearby bar after leaving?

Discounts might go to mayors, or to groups of five, or to anyone who checks in 10 times a month.

Some users cheat. For instance, they check in from a distance, only pretending to patronize a venue. Foursquare is getting ready to address some of these problems, but Crowley says it's hard to make a system that can't be gamed somehow.

In any case, one free drink isn't usually a huge issue. A San Francisco restaurant called Showdogs (which also uses Foursquare) will give a free drink to anyone who barks like a dog on a Thursday. The bigger goal is generating traffic and the additional sales after that first drink.

If Foursquare acts as a kind of loyalty card, it's a smarter, more connected one. Upon check-in, a user's presence can be broadcast to friends, which is like an advertisement for the venue. In fact some venues request to see a user's check-in on the phone's screen before giving the discount.

For now, Foursquare's priority is getting as many people as possible using the service. It's got a long way to go, but at least it's operating in a high-growth market.

Borrell Associates, a research firm, indicates its projection of 8 percent growth in online local ad-spending for 2009 needs adjustment to 11 percent -- possibly higher. It's pegging the market now at over $14 billion.

Foursquare isn't the only intriguing startup trying to grow in this rich soil. EveryBlock aggregates a variety of local information -- police calls, restaurant inspections, online restaurant reviews, and so on -- relevant down to the level of a city block. It was just bought by MSNBC.

EveryBlock is experimenting with various kinds of ads, but its viability remains unproven as well. The Washington Post recently shut down its own hyperlocal experiment.

If EveryBlock can be said to provide local news without the local newspaper, Foursquare gets rid of the news altogether. Both ideas likely disturb anyone concerned about the fate of local newspapers, many of which are struggling or folding.

Newspapers and their Web sites have the mind-set, naturally, that local online advertising goes perfectly with local news and information. But if Foursquare or similar efforts catch on, then many local bars, cafes and restaurants will be promoting themselves through a social media game -- and the news won't factor in at all.

Such venues -- for now Foursquare's main target -- are just one sliver of the local ad market. Neither a plastic surgeon nor a landscaping service would likely promote via the service.

But then different venues will use different tactics. A home security consultancy might advertise in a newspaper that has articles on local crime -- or on EveryBlock, which lists police calls.

Some bars and restaurants might like the playfully social feel of Foursquare and promote through it partly for that reason.

Of course, promoting via Foursquare is no guarantee of success. In fact one of the first venues to offer freebies to Foursquare mayors, a Denver area restaurant called Spuds Bros., just went out of business.

Time will tell if Foursquare fares any better.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/4sm8Bt

Gartner: Mobile Advertising To Grow 74% In 2009

August 31, 2009: summarized from MediaPost -- A new Gartner report projects that mobile ad spending worldwide will grow 74% this year to $913.5 million but not really accelerate until 2011, when advertisers are expected to boost mobile spending as part of an overall shift toward digital marketing channels.

By 2013, the research firm expects mobile ad spending to surpass $13 billion, with the Asia-Pacific region leading the way, followed by North America and Europe.

"After 2011, the trend will continue as smartphones and flat-rate data plans become more affordable to mainstream users," states the report, titled "Mobile Advertising Grows Quietly. "The growth in mobile advertising revenues is primarily driven by mobile Web banner ads, but it also has a strong growth component from mobile search, downloadable applications and SMS advertising."

Underlying the growth of these formats is increased consumer use of smartphones, which Gartner expects to account for 45.5% of all mobile phone sales in 2013, up from just over 9% in 2008. The embrace of smartphones -- especially the iPhone -- coupled with a rise in flat-rate data plan pricing, signals that a fundamental change is underway in how consumers interact with high-end devices.

While data usage is growing most rapidly among smartphone users, Gartner analyst Andrew Frank points out that that the increased mobile media consumption is leading Web publishers to create more user-friendly versions of their mobile sites, "which in turn is lifting mobile Web access among non-smartphone users."

A recent NPD report also noted that regular mobile phones have also increasingly adopted smartphone features such as Qwerty keyboards and touchscreens.

The report highlights location-based targeting, long hyped as one of the killer apps of mobile advertising, as still underutilized by finally coming into its own with the spread of GPS technology. "GPS-aware apps now provide a much simpler and more cost-effective means of achieving location targeting, while lowering the risks of consumer backlash," since no personally identifiable information needs to be sent by users.

Gartner expects location-based ads to find an audience among young mobile users who are increasingly using mobile devices to navigate and connect with friends on the go. The firm suggests that media companies will have to develop (or acquire) local directory services like Yelp and Citysearch to fully take advantage of location-based advertising on cell phones.

Another as-yet unfulfilled opportunity in mobile advertising lies in third-party advertising in mobile apps. Despite the explosion of apps sparked by Apple's App Store, most have yet to integrate advertising. And among those that have, the prevalence of house ads indicates that revenue growth is significantly lagging the opportunity afforded by rising usage.

Gartner also predicts that mobile handsets will increasingly complement other types of advertising as a "universal back channel," especially for out-of-home media. The firm's research supports the idea that young consumers in particular will accept free mobile content subsidized by advertising.

Even so, the report acknowledges that user acceptance generally, and regulation of more highly targeted and personalized forms of advertising, remain a potential hazard for advertisers, content providers and carriers. Other barriers to mobile ad growth cited by Gartner include the proliferation of non-standard devices and metrics and mobile spam, especially in connection with SMS text marketing.

While encouraging advertisers and agencies to look at precise targeting by time and location, the firm advises them to maintain a keen sensitivity to privacy issues and permission strategies.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/6SPWr

Tweet For Hire: More Big Businesses Hire Tweeters

CM Comment: A real world application of social media.

September 3, 2009: summarized from Associated Press -- People around the world interact with Alecia Dantico all day. Usually, though, they don't know whether she's young or old, male or female.

What her followers on Facebook and Twitter know is that's she's a friendly, sometimes sassy, blue and gold tin of Garrett Popcorn. That's the icon of the popular Chicago-based snack food that has tourists and locals lining up around the block at locations here and in New York City.

And when Dantico sends out a "virtual tin" of popcorn to a fan over Twitter, she's breaking new ground in the way companies market themselves, joining a growing number of social media experts hired to man Twitter, Facebook and similar sites.

"My day starts on Twitter and it doesn't really end," Dantico says. She keeps her BlackBerry on at all hours to respond to followers in different time zones. "It's driving my family crazy, but that's OK."

Best Buy Co. Inc. riled up the social-media world earlier this summer with a job posting for a senior manager of emerging media marketing. One of the job requirements, as originally posted, called for applicants to have more than 250 followers on Twitter.

When that caused an online backlash, the electronics retailer opened the process of crafting a job description to the public, generating a huge response.

Multinational corporations, such as Ford Motor Co. and Coca-Cola Co., are beginning to use social media to increase positive sentiment, build customer rapport and correct misinformation, says Adam Brown, Coca-Cola's Atlanta-based director of social media.

"Having the world's most-recognized brand, we feel like there's an obligation or a responsibility when people are talking about us, we have a duty to respond," Brown says.

Dantico, who is getting a doctorate in communications with an emphasis in building brand identity in online communities, says she has seen an uptick in sales when she's tweeted from events since joining the company in June.

"I really believe in the power of conversation in social media," she says. "Some days we talk about the weather. Some days we talk about the 'Chicken Dance.' Some days we talk about recipes and parties and shipping Garretts to Cabo for a wedding."

She mentions popcorn in her Tweets, and has helped customers secure tins for special events, but never implores followers to go out and buy some. Successful selling through social media is much more subtle.

"Social media is all about being social," says Nora Ganim Barnes, a marketing professor and director for the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. "It's not called selling media. The biggest mistake companies make is using social media to hawk products. It's a turnoff."

Large Fortune 500 companies have been the slowest to adopt social media strategies, Ganim Barnes says. But not-for-profit organizations have been the fastest.

"It's free," she says. "And they've never had such access to media before."

Recent research by Ganim Barnes and colleagues, though, points to a rapidly growing familiarity with social media, even among the world's biggest brands.

"It's bigger than Twitter, MySpace, Facebook or blogs," she says. "It's about engaging people."

The lightning-fast pace of social media, and Twitter in particular, has forced businesses to act in a whole new way, says Brown, of Coca-Cola.

"If you don't respond within three or four hours, you might as well not respond at all," he says.

For example, a man on Twitter recently expressed annoyance at his difficulty in claiming an all-expenses paid trip he'd won through the My Coke Rewards program. He Tweeted, "Coca-Cola, bring down your drawbridge," Brown recalls. Within about a half an hour, Brown had engaged the customer on Twitter, got on the phone with him and resolved the problem.

Not long after, the man changed his Twitter avatar to a can of Coke Zero.

Like Brown, Scott Monty is working to create a social-media strategy for his company, Ford Motors, where he serves as digital and multimedia communications manager in Dearborn, Mich.

"The beautiful thing about sites like Twitter and Facebook is that it's a one-to-one conversation," Monty says. "You're addressing whoever wrote the original comment. But you're doing it in the public square."

Whether your business is large or small, Monty advises those interested in expanding to social media to stand back and listen before diving in.

"It's not the typical one-way push kind of conversation," Monty says. "You wouldn't burst into a cocktail party and just start handing your business card to people and leave. The online space is no different."

Dantico, with Garrett Popcorn, says she responds every time someone mentions her company on Twitter, whether it's positive or negative. And if one of her followers posts about having a bad day, it's not unusual for Garrett Popcorn to send over some treats.

"Popcorn is fun. My brand is fun," she says. "The conversations were already happening. My job was just to join them. This is the best job in the world."

Read more at: http://bit.ly/4eJYPg