The Anatomy of a Unique Promotional Offer

I recently received a novel promotion that caught my eye. This particular promotion grabbed my attention because of its layers of incentivization. These layers were all designed to inspire a wide range of behaviors and seemed to have a nice balance of both short- and long-term rewards. The offer contained a mix of incentives, including:

1) Direct rewards for participating in the offer.
2) Rewards that I could earn with specific actions.
3) Rewards that I can win.

As I peeled apart the promotion, I really began to appreciate the designer’s tactical genius—enough to share it will you today.

The cover page of the promotion, as demonstrated in Exhibit A, is effective in appealing to the player’s emotions by giving them a call to action, while leaving the loyalty program brand understated. The designer prefers to emphasize the partners in the program and to remind the player that accessing these partners is based on their casino play. This page encourages you to read on.

As simple as the cover page is in its design, the interior page is complicated. It is complicated because it contains four complex elements that describe the entire promotion, as demonstrated in Exhibit B and explained in detail below.

Element #1 – The Base Offer
The first element is the simplest and most direct. Upon visiting the casino, I will receive $100 as a gift card redeemable at one of partner’s retail operations listed on the front page or as free slot play. I also will receive three complimentary nights in the hotel. This element is clearly the base incentive and is the primary element in driving players to redeem the promotion. Obviously, this offer is based on my historical play activity at the property. It is powerful because it also helps reinforce my status by associating the program with two major retail outfits while giving me a choice and a sense of control—do I redeem for a gift card or for free slot play?

Element #2 – The Reach Offer
This is where the offer gets interesting. If I earn a set amount of tier credits, I qualify for another award. In this case, I need to earn 2,150 tier credits to earn the award. I assume that the promotion designer used analytics to set a reach goal, as it is just a bit out of reach for my normal play patterns. The offer pushes me to consider—if not attempt—to play out of my normal behavioral range. This reach goal may just be enough to drive incremental improvements in the overall offer.

Element #3 – The Dreaming Big Offer
The designer lays down another incentive with the promotion. If I participate in the promotion, I earn entries into a $100,000 cash and prizes giveaway drawing. As I pondered the promotion, I couldn’t help but think about the possibilities associated with having a winning ticket in the drawing. This is a common approach to incentivizing behavior in the industry—offer entries into a drawing for cash and prizes, creating an emotional belief that a life-changing outcome is obtainable.

Element #4 – Incentive Not to Play Elsewhere
Here is where I think the magic is in the promotion. The designer informs me that there is going to be a series of these types of promotions in the future. In order to maximize my chances of winning, I have to attend four of these events. The more events I attend, the more entries I receive for the drawing, in my (the player’s) mind, improving my chances of winning. The quid pro quo between the player and the casino is this: You keep coming and I keep giving you more entries; you stop within the series and you will not maximize your opportunities. From the player’s perspective, there is an opportunity cost associated with not participating in the entire series. The beauty is that these entries into the drawing do not represent a significant cost to the casino; therefore, if the player likes the promotion, the casino has successfully built switching costs with the player. This switching cost element helps the casino remain relevant and competitive as the player considers other offers in the future from competing properties.

These elements work together to tactically reinforce each other, creating a layered promotional effect that leaves the player thinking of all the different ways that they can receive, earn or win a reward. As a player receiving this promotion, I feel special. The offer appears customized to my interests and play levels, and it also provides me with choices and a sense of control.

I particularly like the way that elements 3 and 4 work together. The fixed cost of the $100,000 in total prizes creates a large prize pool that still feels obtainable. I don’t have to be present to win, so I have no explicit commitment to visit in the future; however, my odds of winning can be improved by participating in future events in the series. Suddenly, the switching costs of playing elsewhere become relevant and not attending the other events raises the specter that others are going to get an advantage over me, possibly winning my fair share of the prize pool. The entries into the prize pool have a high perceived value, while the cost to the casino is marginal given the length of time between establishing the prize pool and awarding the players that have participated in the promotion.

In an environment where casinos use predictable discount promotions to encourage play, the structure of this promotion shows a creative flair and is ambitious in the goals that the designer was looking to achieve. The promotion appears to balance short- and long-term incentivization in a novel way in comparison to promotions that focus solely on instant gratification at the point of redemption. In my experience, promotions that get this blend right are more powerful in creating loyalty and increasing switching costs, as well as enjoying higher response rates. Certainly, cause and effect are tough to measure with a complicated promotion of this type, but that being said, assuming the promotion was a success, it opens up a variety of creative options going forward.