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PEOPLE TO WATCH 2014: Paul Gordon

Vice President of Sales, Rymax Marketing Services

PEOPLE TO WATCH 2014: Paul Gordon

As vice president of sales for Rymax Marketing Services, Paul Gordon helps clients in a number of different industries effectively market their businesses.

But his favorite clients are in the casino business.

“I run several different divisions, but the gaming division is my favorite,” Gordon says. “It’s fun because it’s a marketing exercise of everything from behavioral studies to short-term gratification to what’s going to make people do things on a longer-term basis.”

On the surface, the traditional marketing aims of the casino business were relatively simple: People like freebies, so lay them on in response to loyal play. But since he first came to Rymax five years ago, the game has changed quite a bit.

And it will continue to change, Gordon says, simply because the audience for casinos is changing rapidly. As the ranks of the baby-boomers continue to thin, millennials and “Generation Z” are taking over.

That, he says, very much changes the baseline strategies needed in marketing to achieve player loyalty.

“The days of saying ‘Come in on Tuesday and get a muffin tin’ are long gone,” Gordon says.

Rymax made its name in the casino marketing business by landing deals with all of the highest of the high-end retailers for products that can be offered as incentives.

“We’re all about name-brand products that go into our programs,” says Gordon. “We’re the guys that are delivering Michael Kors. We are delivering Samsung. We are delivering Myer cookware, including Rachael Ray. We’re doing all those things that are desirable in retail, and that can be conferred on comp dollars. That’s a different strategy than giving away something that’s going to keep your beer can cold, and has the property’s name on it.”

However, he says, having the right products is only the beginning. Gordon has built up Rymax’s casino division by rolling up his sleeves with casino executives at every level—examining the demographics drawn by a property at various times of the day, week or year; examining the promotions tied in with entertainment events; studying the demographics drawn by each promotional or entertainment event—and then tailoring promotions with high-end gifts that are likely to be appreciated by each particular demographic.

“The reason we’ve penetrated so deeply across the board is that we said there’s more to player loyalty than simply ‘sign up for a card and get stuff,’” Gordon says. “What  are the emotional drivers key to that group? What’s an audience motivator? Why are they going to go to a property?”

Gordon tailors promotions for clients according to what’s going on in the property—and who is going to be there.

“If the demographic is a younger, cooler, hip audience, then the giveaway should be Beats by Dr. Dre, the headphones. If a fashion icon is performing, then give away a fashion product with high brand equity. We take a look at the entertainment calendar, and the seasonality in terms of what population is coming through the most, and try to have multiple promotions running in a segmentation and concentration strategy between boomers, millennials and Gen Z.”

In his years at Rymax, Gordon has overseen the development of marketing strategies for just about every situation in the casino business—start-ups, revivals of struggling properties, targeting several markets in successful properties. For the future, though, he says one factor in all these programs is essential: Promotions must be communicated in a way the target market will hear them.

Communication, he says, must be online, and mobile.

“Technology now is critical, because as older boomers exit, the expectation of what they’re going to receive through loyalty is dramatically different,” he says.

“The next group we (as marketers) want to talk to is Generation Z, age 25 and up. Their entire life has been experienced on the internet. They’re used to communicating in 140 characters or less, and they demand instant gratification, and they’re tremendously swayed by celebrities and by brand ambassadors.”

While making sure the internet is used to its fullest, he says, marketers have to be ready to work a lot harder than they did in the old keychain-and-muffin-tin days.

“Whatever worked in the past needs to be revisited, and a lot more homework needs to go into what is the right promotion, to drive volume and create a distinct identity for the property,” he says. “We’re doing that. It’s a very strategic exercise, and that’s why we’ve had such great success in the casino segment.”

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.