Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs

We’re convinced our industry has failed to use interior signage to its fullest potential. It’s not that casinos aren’t using the latest technologies or that their staff isn’t doing their best during 80-hour workweeks to come up with fresh and compelling messaging. It’s just that it usually lacks results. Why? It could have something to do with Sarah and Dave.

Let us introduce you. Our friends Sarah and Dave are a middle-class, 40-something couple heading out to their local tribal casino to see a Tesla concert. They haven’t been to this casino for nearly a year, and since their last visit, the property has expanded its amenities. The couple has some time to kill before the big show and stop inside the entrance to figure out what to do.

They scan their surroundings for inspiration. Within a minute, this is what they see: a digital display advertising tonight’s special Tesla appearance, a poster about last month’s slot promotion, a wall-mounted display advertising the new ultra-lounge, the steakhouse specials on an end cap, and an above-slot sign promoting $10 in free slot play for new player’s club members.

Sarah and Dave look at each other and shrug. They don’t mind gambling, but never really know which slot game to pick or how to play a game that catches their interest. They just ate and aren’t really big drinkers. After a quick talk, they decide to spend their free time waiting in line before the show. As they follow the signs to the events center, Dave notices more displays advertising an upcoming comedian and the cafe, prompting him to belt out his favorite Tesla cover song: “Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs.” Sarah looks at him and laughs.

Even though they stole the song from the 1971 hit by the Five Man Electrical Band, Tesla—and Dave, in this case—sings truth. This casino did a great job of creating confusing and inconsistent messages, leaving Sarah and Dave overwhelmed and indifferent. The couple had both the money and the time to spend on just about anything the casino had to offer, but chose to spend their time waiting in line instead. You might try to reason that it’s because Tesla fans are cheap and greasy and the show didn’t attract the kind of customers it was supposed to. But the reality is,

Tesla fans do have the money and means to gamble, drink and eat at your facility, and it’s your outdated messaging and boring interior signage that fails to motivate people in any way.

Why do we spend so much time and money on the presentation of our message and do such an appalling job when it comes to conveying our messages? Because most of us haven’t clearly articulated a property-wide messaging strategy. Think about it. How does your casino determine what kind of content is displayed where and when? Do you section it off to the casino floor, restaurants, bars, hotel, spa, etc.? Many casinos consider the signs on the casino floor the property of the slot department, the wall-mounted displays as the marketing department’s, and the in-room TVs as the hospitality department’s. The results are garbled messages that cost your property tens of thousands of dollars per month in design costs and unrecognized incremental revenue.

It’s quite possible your casino’s interior signage efforts receive about the same response as the one in Sarah and Dave’s story. If that’s the case, it’s high time you called a management meeting to start discussing a property-wide messaging strategy. We know these are tough to do—marketing, slots, IT and management don’t always play nice. It’s usually the department with the loudest voice that gets the majority of the budget. But if your casino is actually going to make money and see returns from its interior signage efforts, common ground must be found. And that common ground must be based on potential revenue generation.

During this meeting, you need to discuss the predicted revenue generation of each department. As far as making money goes, how do F&B, hospitality, slots, table games, bingo, et. al. rate? Unless you’re in a destination location, our guess is the top performers are within the gaming department. If that’s true, it might be time to rethink the quantity, quality and focus of the messages you’re sending to guests. Start by surveying your property’s use of interior signage. What are the trends? More and more often, the majority of messages focus on amenities. Yet, the amount of space and other resources devoted to interior messages should be parallel to revenue-generating goals. If you’re ever going to see a return on your efforts, profits must lead the way.

To be clear, though, we’re not suggesting you don’t advertise amenities at all. They definitely contribute to the bottom line. What we’re saying is, in order to get the most return on your investment, you must examine the revenue-generating power of each moneymaking department and determine a property-wide messaging strategy that supports the most incremental revenue. We can’t go on just trying to use up the messaging space. We need to create a well-planned strategic path through the facility with an end goal in mind.

Unfortunately, finding and achieving that goal isn’t as easy as determining which department generates what. If the messages themselves don’t carry their weight, your efforts are useless. Only engaging communications motivate people to act, and your signage needs to get people interested. What do you really want people to do? What kinds of messages will motivate those behaviors? Finding the answers to these questions is key to your success.

When it comes to one of the biggest revenue generators for a property—the gaming floor—we usually see messages focused on player’s club sign-ups, promotions and occasionally new slot games. But that’s not enough to motivate someone like Sarah or Dave (or the other 95 percent of the population that doesn’t gamble). We need new kinds of game-related messages if we’re to capture that demographic’s attention and wallet.

We also need to consider how we’re going to measure the failure or success of our efforts. Usually we rely on “intuition” or “general knowledge” to determine how or why we arrange our displays and messages, and when it doesn’t work out, we use those same metrics to change it up. But isn’t this an act of insanity? Shouldn’t we be using more concrete, accurate metrics to appraise effectiveness? It seems that with the advancement of systems and technology there should be a more efficient way to know if what we’re doing is working.

It also seems that there should be more effective ways to manage all this content. If you had it your way, would it be as simple as visiting a website and uploading files? There’s also the web and mobile technology to consider. Would integrating Internet and smartphone messaging with your interior signage help elicit responses? It’s important to consider how you’re going to manage your communications.

There’s no doubt the digital signage industry has come a long way since the early 2000s, when we used TV screens with pre-recorded video to try to engage customers. Since then, broadband Internet, digital displays, rich media assets, and network-based distribution and management solutions have popped up. Yet, as in Sarah and Dave’s case, we fail again and again as an industry to successfully use the available solutions to increase revenues. Could it be that we neglect to consider Tesla’s age-old observation? The signs say yes.

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