Friday, February 26, 2010

Is Caesars Atlantic City “Swinging” for a New Target Market?

Just a few months ago, on these very pages, I gave kudos to Caesars Atlantic City and its Total Rewards loyalty program.

During some trying times for the economy in general, and Atlantic City in particular, Caesars AC was making some smart moves to get its loyalty program members back to the casino.

Last week, Caesars AC got my attention again. But not in a good way. You see, they ran a rather bizarre full-page ad in the Sunday NYTimes magazine.

Let’s start with the photo in the ad (which can be seen above): a well-dressed 30-something guy has a pretty woman to his right. She has one hand on his shoulder and another wrapped tightly around his arm. It looks like they’re at a show. Okay so far, except our guy seems more interested in another woman to his left. He has his lips to her ear and her extended arm appears to be resting on his thigh.

Under the headline “The Life You Were Meant to Live“, the stilted copy reads:
Who is that in Section A, Row 1, Seat 5, having the time of your life? That’s Todd. Flanked by your fiery vixens. Paying no attention to your favorite band on stage. But give credit where it’s due. Todd is an escape artist. And when it’s time for a getaway, he get it’s right.


Putting aside the confusing use of the possessive “your”, who are the fiery vixens with Todd? Am I supposed to pretend I’m Todd…on some kind of a three-way tryst? Is this what they mean by “he gets it right?” More importantly, did Caesars’ market research show the ménage a trois market to be a growing demographic?

Personally, I can only think of one word for the ad – Stupid.

Instead of creating a scenario that the largely upscale readership of the NYTimes magazine might be able to imagine themselves in, they’ve come up with a fictional character in a contrived situation that’s a non-starter for anyone not in the “swinger” category.

It of course begs the question, what were they thinking? The only thing I can come up with is that Caesars AC is trying to out Vegas-Vegas.

Sorry Caesars, as much as I like you and your loyalty program, you’re no Vegas. And there are better ways to spend your precious marketing dollars.

This article was originally published on Loyalty Truth on February 15, 2010, and was written by Tom Rapsas, a 20 year direct and loyalty marketing veteran. He can be reached on Twitter @tomrapsas

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tim McGraw Strums Loyalty for My Outback Rewards.

A celebrity endorsement—for a loyalty program?

The pros and cons of using a celebrity spokesperson in advertising have been long established. The pros? A celebrity draws attention The cons? A celebrity draws attention—away from your product or service.

What’s more, as we recently saw with golfing legend you-know-who, there’s the potential downside of aligning your company with a celebrity whose reputation takes a sudden nosedive. So when I learned that restaurant chain Outback Steakhouse had signed country music star Tim McGraw as a celebrity spokesperson, I was doubly surprised. You see, his job is not to pitch the brand, but to help launch their new loyalty effort My Outback Rewards.

As explained on the Outback Web site:
Fans of Tim McGraw and Outback Steakhouse will have the chance to win exclusive Tim McGraw memorabilia, downloads, tickets to the upcoming Southern Voice Tour and VIP access, great offers from Outback Steakhouse and even a chance to travel to Australia to see Tim McGraw perform live in the Land Down Under!

Another thing that’s different about My Outback Rewards are the rules: The program has no loyalty cards, as it’s based totally online. Once users register at the program Web site, they simply collect their Outback receipts–and then record numerical codes from the receipts on the rewards site. A point is earned for each dollar spent, and points can be redeemed for prizes.

The choice of McGraw as Outback’s loyalty program spokesman comes as less of a surprise when you learn the program was developed by event marketing agency Rally Marketing Group, whose specialty is experiential marketing. In the loyalty business we’ve long talked about the value of experiential rewards. But I wondered about putting the Tim McGraw experience on the same level as the Outback dining experience.

So it was with great interest that I visited the My Outback Rewards site on the program’s January 25th launch date. Just how would they incorporate McGraw into their communications? Would he be strumming an Outback inspired tune? Be shown chomping on a ribeye or a Bloomin’ Onion®?

Well, I can say they’ve done a nice job of integrating Tim McGraw into the My Outback Rewards Web site. The site is clean and easy to navigate, they do a good job of explaining step-by-step how the program works, and they have successfully linked Tim with the Outback brand by identifying several dishes that are “Tim’s choices”.

Still, I can’t help but wonder why Outback chose to put all its loyalty program eggs in the Tim McGraw basket. An e-mail welcoming me into the program came written and signed by Tim McGraw himself. A view of the reward list shows more Tim McGraw-related rewards than Outback options. And with the program so closely linked to McGraw, I’m left wondering if they have a fall back plan should the unthinkable happen.

I personally think Tim McGraw seems like a stand-up guy. Who doesn’t love his wife Faith Hill? And I really think they’ve done a beautiful job with the My Outback Rewards site. But in some ways the whole thing sure feels closer to a Tim McGraw loyalty program than one for Outback.

This article originally appeared on the Loyalty Truth blog, 1/29/10, and was written by Tom Rapsas, a 20 year direct and loyalty marketing veteran. Tom heads up Creative Services at Hanifin Loyalty and can be reached on Twitter @tomrapsas