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Harrah's Asks Employees to 'Play a Part'

Staff-driven effort is meant to create more social experience for consumers visiting casinos.

In an effort to leverage employees as a marketing medium, Harrah's has launched an initiative dubbed "Everybody Plays a Part," which attempts to deliver a more social experience to consumers that visit its casinos.

"Everybody Plays a Part" began with an employee rally at Harrah's Atlantic City properties earlier this month. In April, 30,000-plus employees at Harrah's casinos across the U.S. will participate in a series of activities to convey the message that "gaming is a very social experience," says Harrah's CMO David Norton. "The customer is going to start to know that ‘everyone plays a part,' which is what the Harrah’s [campaign] is all about," he says.

Keeping in mind the overarching theme, individual entertainment units can put their own spin on the theme. The goal, Norton said, is for employees to brainstorm ideas behind the scenes (as in: "What part do you play?" and "How do you build upon that role?") and convey these messages through front-house signage.

Such communication may take on the form of specially designed nametags, decorations on work apparel and poster-size visuals displayed within the casinos. The effort reflects the brand’s desire to shift from "fun and gaming" to a more "social aspect," Norton says.

Like many casinos, Harrah's has been affected by consumers pulling back on entertainment and travel. The casino giant, which was acquired by a private equity firm earlier last year, had $23 billion in long term debt in 2008. And it’s been cutting back on more traditional forms of media spending. Harrah's U.S measured media spend was $74 million last year, down from $82 million in 2007, excluding online, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Another Harrah's brand, Showboat, is also following suit. Two thousand Showboat employees at Atlantic City recently donned Mardi Gras costumes, beads and masks—all in an effort to "Make the good times roll." Showboat will illustrate that theme via property and employee festivities.

BBDO San Francisco handled both campaigns.

Mike Chamberlin, senior director at BBDO West, San Francisco, said that unlike a traditional large-scale campaign, which even the most loyal of consumers might miss, leveraging employees as a marketing medium works because they're often the first individuals consumers come in contact with when entering a casino.

Norton agreed with Chamberlin, he says: "[Consumers] might win or lose but they want to have a great time and the employees are the ones that can deliver that experience."