All the talk in analyst and media circles surrounding leading slot manufacturer International Game Technology these days usually concerns the company’s pending acquisition by lottery and gaming giant GTECH, and how the company may look after the merger is complete.
But today’s IGT already looks a lot different than it did only a few years ago. A lot of that can be attributed to Susan Cartwright. As vice president of corporate communications, Cartwright has molded a marketing image for IGT as a multi-channel supplier and a leader in the emerging social-gaming market—shedding the persistent image of the 800-pound gorilla of the slot market.
After 27 years in advertising and communications, Cartwright was brought in to head IGT communications by CEO Patti Hart in 2012, while IGT was in the process of acquiring social gaming company Double Down Interactive, a move that was drawing wide criticism at the time as an expensive move away from the company’s core strengths. (The success of IGT’s Double Down Casino would soon silence those critics.)
Since then, Cartwright has overseen a major repositioning of the slot manufacturer as a technology leader in multi-channel distribution in the online space as well as the brick-and-mortar slot market. Today, even IGT’s logo is different than the one that identified the dominant casino slot supplier of the 1990s and 2000s.
“One of the things I’m most proud of for the organization is developing a marketing/communications strategy that is aligned with the business strategy,” Cartwright says. “Prior to the rebranding and repositioning, we had a very solid business strategy that was focused on best-in-class content, diversity of distribution, innovation and shareholder value. But we were not linking that business strategy to the communications strategy.
“The reflection of Double Down as the embodiment of that has allowed us to tell that story about expanded distribution and best-in-class content. It enriches our story, with our shareholders, our employees and certainly, our customers.”
It was a task for which Cartwright was uniquely qualified, having worked in brand repositioning in communications functions for a variety of industries. She has conducted countless campaigns in marketing for blue-chip clients across the board. “That’s really similar to what we’ve done at IGT,” she says, “and that is to recognize that brands matter. It is a purchasing factor for our customers and also, quite frankly, for our players.”
The new image of IGT “was not just to be a logo change, but to really reflect the brand essence of what has always made IGT great, and what will propel us to the future,” Cartwright says. “When we looked at what made IGT great, it was being maniacally focused on innovation, and bringing new things to the marketplace and to our industry.”
She ticks off a laundry list of those innovations: ticket-in/ticket-out, sbX server-based gaming, video poker, progressive slots, Reel Edge skill-based games… and prominently of late, Double Down, which revealed the value of social gaming to the industry at large.
Cartwright’s branding and repositioning work is accompanied by promoting the industry at large, through the American Gaming Association, through government relations, compulsive gambling initiatives, gaming-related scholarships an other activities.
The industry will be watching to see how Cartwright’s team translates the communications function regarding IGT’s accomplishments to the newly merged company after the GTECH deal is complete. Cartwright says she’s excited to hone the strengths of two very synergistic brands. “I think they complement each other in a terrific way, each of them being leaders in their segments,” she says. “I think together, we’ll be stronger.
“We’re going to be creating the global leader in end-to-end gaming solutions across all segments. The No. 1 gaming company will be combined with the No. 1 global lottery company, and truly the top tier in social gaming with Double Down.”
Cartwright also says she’s looking forward to keeping up with a rapidly changing gaming industry.
“We are at the crossroads of technology and entertainment, and creating compelling content across platforms,” she says. “We really want to maintain the right to radiate this through all our communications, for ourselves as well as the industry.”