For every MGM Resorts International, Caesars International, and Wynn Resorts, there is a lesser-known gaming counterpart: like Golden Entertainment.
Golden Entertainment is a publicly traded gaming company that owns and operates gaming properties across three divisions: resort and casino operations, pubs and taverns and distributed gaming. While the investor community knew Golden Entertainment from a financial and operating perspective, to everyone else, they were an unknown corporate patriarch of loosely knitted brands. And unlike MGM, Caesars or Wynn, there was no consumer-facing Golden Entertainment brand.
Although this was fine for a time, aggressive M&A activity in late 2017 resulted in the acquisition of American Casino and Entertainment Properties. With this acquisition, Golden Entertainment suddenly added an internationally recognizable asset to its portfolio — Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower — along with three additional casino properties.
How do you define a new relationship for a complex house of brands, while identifying new audiences, creating a single culture and delivering economies of scale with a unified marketing approach?
One corporate brand, 10+ casinos including the iconic Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, 65+ taverns, distributed gaming operations in small town pubs and truck stops to well-known grocery chains and close to 7,200+ employees.
Talk about complexity.
Golden Entertainment was in need of a strong foundation to weather the inevitable ups and downs from more acquisitions, internal structure changes and budget pressures. But more importantly, they needed an organizing principle that would define the relationship between all their brands, and a brand North Star to inspire behaviors and communications both internally and to customers.
A brand reboot and customer-centric loyalty program to connect all things Golden Entertainment: the employees, guests, and all the diverse properties.
With this new customer-centric loyalty program on the roadmap, we set our sights on the next challenge: DRIVING GROWTH. Like every other category, gaming is being squeezed on both ends. On one end: the category is being disrupted by increasing competition from online gaming, state-sponsored lotteries, fantasy sports websites and other forms of legalized gaming. This was impacting local business. On the other end, there are now places for people to gamble that are much closer than Las Vegas, which is why the city’s resorts have reinvented themselves as places to eat, drink, shop, and occasionally gamble. But the recent news that both visitation and earnings are down across all properties in Las Vegas has thrown a scare into investors. This was impacting the tourist business.
We knew that in a challenged category the path to growth would come from attracting customers away from aggressive pricing and promotions offered by competitors, and attracting and retaining employees.
So with those two key growth drivers in mind, our goal was to create something radical: to define what it means to be a part of the Golden Entertainment family and create a sustainable and ownable idea for growth.
Have you heard of Yum Brands? Probably not.
Taco Bell and Pizza Hut? Probably.
While Yum Brands is the “meaningless” parent brand to Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, our goal was to make Golden Entertainment a “meaningful” parent brand to its house of brands and deliver a consistent brand and culture that employees and guests alike would experience through every Golden interaction.
When you think about gaming, casinos and entertainment, there are likely a few things that come to mind. If you are like the guests we spoke to when visiting various Golden Entertainment properties, you might say millionaire DJs, $50 cocktails, velvet ropes, gondolas and fountains, lots of chandeliers and sparkle.
And this gave us a massive opportunity to step outside the norms of the category with something new and fresh. The reality is that most of Golden Entertainment’s casino properties and its close to 60 pubs/taverns appeal to a more down-to-earth guest. No glitz, no glam, just real people looking for a good time at the right value. Our new positioning acknowledges that our guests don’t like the “fake” and “pretentious” side of Las Vegas and allows us to celebrate who they actually already are…real and authentic.
This no-frills attitude plays out through every guest and employee touchpoint. Starting with the logo, the design is very simple and straight-forward. The three-color bars in the ‘E’ represent each of Golden Entertainment’s sub-brands. From fonts to color pallet and imagery, Golden Entertainment is represented as a real, honest and no BS company. One that its investors, groups and employees can get behind. Not only that, but it’s a brand that guests, patrons and locals can trust.
The first place to land this new brand platform was internal. Whether you are a blackjack dealer at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, a bartender at Sierra Gold in Henderson, a slot route operator at 7-11 in Montana, or working in the corporate office, everyone is a Golden Entertainment employee. And defining what this meant in terms of values and behaviors was the only way the brand would be activated and experienced by guests and customers.
Exceptional Service, Accountability, Integrity and Speed with Purpose. These values were evangelized via an employee engagement that was all-encompassing and included:
Now it was time to shift our focus outward. When the iconic Stratosphere Hotel and Casino became part of the Golden Entertainment family, defining its relationship with the new corporate brand was paramount. Its core brand tenets would need to ladder up to the new Golden Entertainment corporate mission, values, pillars, and overall tonality.
To start, we commissioned a formative, quantitative research study to look at current awareness, perceptions and brand associations of the Stratosphere. We also included a MaxDiff program to rank product enhancements under consideration, evaluating the level of appeal and determining which concepts had a cross-section of uniqueness and likelihood to increase share of visits.
What we learned is that while the Stratosphere has little to no negative equity, this was largely driven by guests that have literal associations with the brand through the tower, and limited knowledge on what the Stratosphere truly offers through its hotel, casino, food & beverage program, and retail. We also learned that guests were very open to an enhanced brand experience.
Game on! We now had permission to rebrand and elevate the Stratosphere’s perception among all generations, both visitors and locals. Unique brand positioning and brand identity was developed to delineate this property’s unique offering and major renovations, in addition to target audience identification, visual ID, and a rebrand rollout plan.
With a nod to history and the welcoming spirit of Las Vegas reinvention, this iconic brand is on the brink of a new beginning as The STRAT.
To make the new brand platform tangible to guests, we needed more than a great and consistent guest experience. How about a completely overhauled loyalty program? A direct output from the corporate rebranding, “True Rewards” is a game changing program consolidating four disparate loyalty programs. Complete with a new identity and naming tiers that embody the down to earth values of Golden Entertainment (ranging from “True” to “Legit” and “Epic”) now Golden Entertainment guests have the ability to play locally and redeem nationally at 130+ locations that offer world-class experiences at a premium value without any of that fine print nonsense and confusing language that comes with other rewards programs.
A new and fresh set of values, a single company culture, engaged employees, a re-launched iconic casino brand, and an overhauled loyalty program.
And we’re just getting started.
Today we are running campaigns for all of Golden Entertainment’s brands spanning property promotions, launch campaigns and city-driven destination campaigns for Laughlin. We are creating massive economies of scale and scope with a unified brand message and consolidated media spend delivered through a single agency of record. All while navigating a complex operating structure with multiple marketing stakeholders ranging from the CEO to program and property marketing leads.
It’s one thing to have a shared name but another thing to have an identity, meaning and shared values. We have unified this house of brands with a shared sense of purpose that is meaningful to guests and employees, both of whom will be catalysts of growth for Golden Entertainment. And Golden Entertainment is no longer a lesser known casino counterpart, but on the path to becoming a well-known consumer brand.