Positioning your company’s brand is more important than ever before in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Sudhir Kalé.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a tectonic shift in people’s attitudes, preferences, behaviors and purchases. The gaming industry has not been immune to these changes. Because of casino closures all over the world and restricted mobility of gaming customers, market dynamics of the industry have changed drastically. Once “loyal” customers are now experimenting with other brands or looking at other platforms on which to gamble. The customer mindset has changed, and casino operators need to pivot their marketing strategies accordingly if they are to retain their existing customers and attract new ones.
One of the casualties of the pandemic has been an eroded customer loyalty. A McKinsey report found that more than 75% of consumers have tried new brands or places to shop and altered their methods of shopping during the pandemic. One way to rekindle the spark between the casino and its customers is through brand positioning.
WHAT IS POSITIONING?
Brand positioning has been defined as “the specific intended meaning for a brand in consumers’ (customers’) minds. More precisely, a brand’s positioning articulates the goal that a consumer will achieve by using the brand and explains why it is superior to other means of accomplishing this goal.”
Peoples’ goals have changed, some would argue irrevocably, because of the pandemic. Casino brands, therefore, should alter their positioning to align their brand perceptions with the goals and preferences of the target market. Brand efforts should be directed toward finding that sweet spot where the brand is differentiated from competitors, is viewed as being relevant by the target market and has emotional power to intimately connect with the chosen market segment(s).
Positioning flows from an analysis of market segments and decisions about which segments to target. Australian academic Michael Beverland writes that positioning, in essence, involves providing your customers with compelling answers to three questions: (1) Who are you? (2) What do you do? (3) Why does it matter?
The first question introduces (or reintroduces) customers from targeted segments to the company. Customers, more than ever before, are wanting to try new brands and would love to engage with a brand that portrays itself as authentic, caring and friendly.
While all casinos in effect “do” the same thing, the “way” in which they do it differs. Caesars Entertainment tries to draw in customers through its rewards program while Marina Bay Sands wants to be perceived as a company offering high-class entertainment in an iconic venue. Given the very different offerings, the two companies would and should target different segments.
According to Simon Sinek, when we start with “Why”, we go from the inside out of the circle. “Why” is the reason to buy, and the “What” merely represents the tangible products as a proof of that belief. “What” is the reason we can point to in order to rationalize why we like one company over another. The “why” of Station Casinos could be described as a company that truly cares about its local customers and goes the extra mile to keep them satisfied. The “why” of Caesars, on the other hand, could be inferred as “providing good players with the rewards and recognition they deserve.”
Answering the three basic questions on positioning prepares the company to come up with a formal positioning statement – a short description of how a brand satisfies a consumer need better than the competition. The positioning statement needs to be internalized by all employees so that they personify the brand essence in all decisions and interactions.
BENEFITS OF POSITIONING
Pretty much all marketing actions flow from a firm’s positioning. Positioning provides casino operators with an intimate understanding of their customers. The company can then use this understanding to provide customers with attractive offers that are aligned with its value proposition. When differences from competitors are clearly spelled out, current and future marketing efforts become more focused. Positioning, rightly done, differentiates a brand from its competitors. A strong position ensures that the brand becomes deeply embedded in the customer decision making process. Sound positioning enables a brand to relate to its targeted customers through powerful story telling.
At a time when customers’ connections with brands have become tenuous, creative brand positioning will cement the place of a brand in customers’ minds, thereby enhancing brand loyalty and increasing revenues and profits.