Fifty Shades of Marketing

Fifty Shades of Marketing

She handed me the book … wrapped in brown paper.  

Like a forbidden bottle of alcohol, not to be consumed in public (especially if you don’t have a poker face). Yup, dare I admit it? The package was the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I hate giving more press to this Harlequin Romance on sexual steroids — but I knew there was a marketing lesson here.

So, I accepted the contraband from my 65-year-old gal pal, and I was determined not to like it. Why? Some of the best material I have ever read is by folks who can’t support themselves on writing alone, and THIS, THIS?!? is the book that is flying off the shelves, to a tune of 31 MILLION COPIES?? And certainly if it becomes so mainstream and comic that SNL does a skit about it , there was no way I was going to jump on the bandwagon.
But she did give it to me and was quite excited to share it. So, in private, I read it. And I hated every moment of it. Well, not every moment.

I mean, you’d be practically dead not to, uh, respond down there.

Embarrassing, I tell you, how the body will betray you.

In case you have been out of the loop, the story is about a naïve college gal who meets a no-way-in-hell-is-there-a-man-in-real-life-that-rich-and-handsome asshole. He captures her heart despite being a patronizing yet vulnerable, slightly damaged jerk bearing opulent gifts who happens to only want a dominant/submissive relationship.

Same overused romantic storyline that’s been around for years, with the twist, as one blogger put it, “to be in a loving relationship with someone that sometimes hurts and humiliates me in consensual, hot ways.”

Alrighty then.

When I started researching for this article , I ended up spending hours, you know how it goes, going from one link to another, learning everything I could ever want to know about subjects from kinky sex to why women buy, to the difference between male and female fantasy.

Bottom line, however, is how can we as marketers learn from the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon?

Know your customer.
My spidey-sense would have totally failed me if I had placed a bet on the success of this book. DESPITE all of my research, despite the numbers, I was still surprised at how many truly intelligent, successful, assertive, and worldly women have consumed not just the first, but the entire trilogy of books in one week. These are gals I personally know — from age 40 something on up, lesbian and straight. Yup, news articles say the audience is composed largely of married women over 30 (and dubbed as “Mommy Porn”). I AM a woman, and I still don’t get it! So much for my intuition.

So, get this — E.L. James wasn’t just lucky and happen to write about something she was interested in; she knew how important fantasy is to women through her longtime blog and website, and developed new ones according to fan response.

And fantasy — I’m not just talking sexually. Think about it, gals — how much time in the car commuting do we imagine everything from a new kitchen, to a cabin on the lake, to new athletic shoes, to Pablo the pool boy? Do mothers and grandmas at your casinos visualize about winning that car? Do they fantasize about winning it for their kids, not even themselves? SURE THEY DO.

(I wrote this originally for Raving for our casino audience, but in reality, in can apply to really any type of business).

How to apply to your casino: How many times do you make assumptions about your guests? About what promotions, what concerts, what offers will TRIGGER them to make an additional visit or spend a bit more? Do you hold consistent focus groups? Do you measure each marketing campaign? Do you send out offers that have no value or interest to your guests as you made assumptions based on their demographic or overall turnout? Or because you don’t have the skills to target your marketing through your database? Do you take advantage of that super expensive system you bought and actively log your customers’ preferences?

Speak to your customer.
James had established a pretty successful website and blog long before this trilogy went viral. By having such a large following, she was able to initially publish via ebook and print-on-demand. She developed these books based on another site as a “spin-off” from the Twilight vampire series. What I’m saying is that she had a vehicle to test and communicate her ideas, and gather priceless information from her followers via comments and feedback. She could communicate directly with her fans.

How to apply to your casino: How do you communicate directly with your casino customers? Do they feel they are one in 100K of folks who are in your database, or do you customize their direct mail and their email? Do you test market your direct mail with different package styles , or put different headings on your email messages to see what generates a better response? What tools (and please don’t say Facebook only) do your guests have to communicate back to you to share what they want? Do you have your own blog on your website?

Deliver to your customer.
Let’s talk about delivery in two ways. Do you deliver exactly what your casino guests want, and do you make it easy for them to get what they want. Okay, so women want erotica (at least 31 million do). Now they can buy it discreetly, in the privacy of their own homes, instead of walking up to a public counter to purchase. Books, toys, whatever, can be found on sites like Amazon. And they can even view it on their Kindle, so fellow plane passengers don’t see the cover of their book.

How to apply to your casino: Okay, how easy is it for your guests to do business with you, and are you delivering what they want? Can they easily make reservations, book a room, get concert tickets, join a contest, log in to their account, check their points and offers, customize their next visit, tailor their award merchandise, even get a hold of you (some casinos’ phone systems are STILL horrible)? Do you know and act on how they prefer to be communicated with? Text, email, snail mail, or all. And you are delivering what they want — tickets to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, or the Spinners, and not to an 80’s hair band, for example. Right?

And furthermore
So, what do women really, really want? What do your customers really, really want? Research tells us that it comes down to more time on device and more opportunities to win. How do you package those two things into a custom experience at your casino? How do you motivate your high-opportunity mid-tier players into more visits and more play at your casino?

If you look at the cultural phenomenon of the Fifty Shades trilogy, is there an opportunity at your casino to incorporate discreet fantasy?

Say, isn’t gambling all about the fantasy of being a winner, of being lucky, of being a VIP?
Drop me a line and let me know what unique ways you are looking at this!

Originally published by Raving Consulting Company

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4 Responses to Fifty Shades of Marketing

  1. wow, awesome article post. Cool.

  2. Jayson Leary says:

    I really like and appreciate your article. Great.

  3. Marin Mckeon says:

    I think this is a real great post.Really thank you! Will read on…

  4. Ariel Tart says:

    This is one awesome blog article.Much thanks again.

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