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06/12/2012

Chapter 4 of a Case Study on the Challenges Facing the Macau Hotel Industry Right Now - Venetia Hotel (Sands Group)


Chapter 4 Findings

 

Brand Communication – Locus Marketing

According to Kale and Spence (2008) for any Asian casino to prosper, brand communication shall focus on targeting, retention, organization, people, incentives, cultures and systems. Customer centrism will be intensified and so the necessity to optimize customer service as the only possible means to sustain competitive advantage. The growing service standards will also require interdepartmental cooperation as well as the qualitative changes in the decision-making of top leadership. Retaining excellent staff will be also a significant endeavor as well as lifelong learning at every organizational level. At Venetian Macao, the unique marketing strategy is locus marketing. From the word locus which means a set of points which satisfies a certain condition, Venetian Macao markets their brand through satisfying distinct niches or market segments. In addition, the company employs marketing communication strategies with emphasis on the role of technology (Kale, 2007).

Marketing and sales is one of the primary activities in Venetian Macao. Venetian Macaois implementing an effective advertising and marketing campaign including the variety of advertising medium, attractiveness of the organized events and innovative promotional packages in accordance to season or festivity. Genting Group collate information about its customers to better understand them and build a stronger customer loyalty base. Venetian Macao brand depends on SAS software in creating customized campaigns based on the analysis of data derived from the customers. As such, the marketing initiatives of the group centers improving customer insights and further optimization of the marketing campaign. There are two leading marketing campaigns for Venetian Macao. The first campaign was designed to increase spending frequency of visits from a segment of high potential customers. The second campaign focuses on providing members with more attractive packages to encourage upgrades. According to Mr. Leow Beng Hooi, Senior Vice President, Casino Marketing:

“[SAS software] has increased our operational efficiencies and allowed us to better manage our resources by channeling them into the right programs and services. It is being utilized in marketing, resource and operations planning, and finance to manage our performance. Supported by relevant data, we are able to identify key success drivers in our campaigns, which enables us to make better decisions, saving us time and money” (SAS Institute, Inc. 2008).

Further, Venetian Macao developed an interactive website which informs clients about the games (Gaming Guide and Frequently Asked Questions) as well as promotions and events and tournaments. An online tour inside the casino facilities saves the cost and time for the consumers and the members’ corner provides details on how they could add value to their money while inside Venetian Macao. Genting WorldCard Benefit, Genting Points and Genting Rewards Gallery are just three of the main features of Venetian Macaoto reward loyal customers. The loyalty network program accommodates the 2.2 million members with benefits extended to the 2, 000 participating merchant outlets. The points accumulated act as redemption for rooms, food and beverage, gaming and transportation. Further, Venetian Macao has a wide distribution channel in which it works with various social campaigns, media activities, online collaborations, travel agencies and several gambling enthusiasts all over the world. Approximately, Genting Group spent RM60 million in its marketing.

Internally, Venetian Macao is just like any other organization when it comes to communicating brand to internal stakeholders. Embedded on traditional values of hard work, perseverance and integrity, the group continuously expand to comprise a global team of dedicated and motivated professional managers. There are a total of 27, 117 employees at Sands Casino as of 31 December 2007 with 13, 000 under the Venetian Macao (Casino City Times, 2008). For these employees to incessantly commit to the brand, annual training conferences and team-building events are held. Family days are also held by various departments within the Group to foster team spirit and collective brand knowledge among executives and staff.

So as to retain the same people with established knowledge of the brand, internal recruitment is prioritized. Venetian Macao, for instance, holds a 12-month long training programme which provides career advancement opportunities for high potential employees. As part of the Casino’s branding initiative, such opportunities were extended to external candidates of select colleges and universities in Malaysia. Effective brand succession is the motivation behind this activity. Venetian Macao also participated in various career fairs and recruitment drives to hire, train and retain the best talent. Brand is also communicated through various seminars and talks focusing on how employees could add value to the strength of the brand and how the Venetian Macao brand could contribute in their quality of life.

Brand Equity

Necessarily, putting value to the Venetian Macao brand must cover specific categories which will drive the four areas identified. The value chain of Venetian Macao starts with its operations. As a 24-hour business, the operation basically starts with the first contact to the guests or customers, involving the staff and facilities. Such activity helps in creating value to the customer through service. In Venetian Macao, the brand is optimized through generating customer satisfaction. This can be done through polite, friendly and experienced staff as well as the best facilities. A review said that: I haven’t been to the Genting casino for over 10 years already and my previous impression of it wasn’t too good… However, it seemed like some upgrades have been made to the Genting Casino as I found it a much better place this time. As the only casino in Malaysia, the Genting Casino attracts a huge number of gamblers and visitors from all over Malaysia and Singapore, especially over the weekends. It is split into several areas over two floors and is easily accessible from any area of the huge Genting entertainment complex.

Another aspect of the brand equity lies in the consistency of workplace practices internal to Venetian Macao or simply the workplace ethics that comes with the brand experience itself. According to Baird (2008), employees from front liners to C-levels must always practice professionalism while also aiming customers to have a positive experience. For instance, from the collected responses, two commented that: A) You need to be over 21 years of age to enter and may be stopped for identity checks at the entrance. Ladies are required to be properly attired while men are required to be in collared shirts with proper pants. B) At the security gate, the guards will check that you are wearing appropriate attire and not carrying any prohibited items. Sometimes, they will check your ID to make sure you are 21 years old and above, or that you are not of the Muslim faith. So be prepared to produce ID or passport. Baird (2008) continued that customers always pay a premium for the experience. In other words, when people come to Venetian Macao to experience the brand itself, they did not go there just for gambling, but they want to experience everything that would go with the money they are paying including timely and quality, ethical services.

Moreover, while at the discussion about ethical stance, Venetian Macao recognizes the requirement for responsible gaming. Genting Group believes that while gambling is a form of entertainment, a small minority of its customers may have difficulty controlling their gambling habits. Indeed, two more responses indicated that gambling is addictive. A person says: I am just a novice, yet I could see how addicting these games can be! If you win, you would wish for more; if you lose, you want to recoup your losses! It is okay to have fun and join in the thrill and excitement of gaming; however be careful that this does not turn into an obsession, and let it control your life. While another noted that: Gambling is still gambling, some people might think. I totally agree with that. As for me, I always use money which I can afford to lose to play with anything. Once lose, I am not going to try to win back my money. If I win, I am most happy and I will stop if my inspiration tell me so. As such, Venetian Macao offers a self-check to determine if an individual’s gaming habit is out of control toward developing a compulsive gaming disorder. The casino’s website is equipped with a list of indicators that a person maybe exhibiting signs of gambling disorder.

  • Is gambling always on your mind?

  • Everything you do or say unconsciously leads you to gambling?

  • Feeling guilty or remorseful after your gambling session?

  • Neglecting your family and health for the sake of gambling?

  • Lying to your family and friends on the frequency and extent of your gambling activities?

  • Borrowed money to gamble?

  • Gambling in hope of getting more money to pay off debts or bills?

  • Gambled longer than expected?

  • Keep saying you will stop once you hit your limits but instead play on till your last cent?

  • Difficulty sleeping as a result of gambling?

  • Contemplated self-destruction as a result of gambling?

  • Contemplated illegal acts to finance your gambling activities?

If you answer to any of the question, you may be at risk of developing gambling disorder. Consider seeking medical assistance.

Table 1 Gambling Disorder Indicators

Satisfying brand expectations is also an imperative in the casino industry. The last thing that any casino brand wants is for customers to whine about the lousy gaming experience they had while inside their property. As Baird (2008) puts it, the reality today is that we have a gaming village and that casinos cannot afford to get it wrong. For Venetian Macao, the priority is vested on how the people deliver the product, which is service. Venetian Macao is well aware that gaming is a people business and that to satisfy people, you must put the right people at the right time and at the right place. In order that Venetian Macao could create value through its service, the Group strategically placed customer service counters in every part of the Genting with thoroughly trained staffs. Such customer service function helps generate the positive image of the company. In addition, Venetian Macao is very particular with maintenance and repair. Knowledgeable and skillful engineers are on the stand-by in case gaming equipments will be unexpectedly damaged.   

MacDonald and Eadington (2007) assert that casinos and other gaming operations sell fun and entertainment to the majority of their customers. Referring to gaming as a leisure or entertainment product is definitely a reasonable general description. As an ‘experience good’, the customer would have no idea how pleasurable or attractive the product will be until after the act of consumption. Brand expectations must not only be satisfied through the service. People went there to play and have fun and so, there must be an array of activities that awaits them. At Venetian Macao, there are tables, slots and kenos among others as well as world-class entertainment. An online casino reviewer observed that: The two main areas in Venetian Macao are the Hollywood and Monte Carlo areas. There is also an exclusive International and VIP Room reserved for the big stake gamblers. The casino has a large number of automated slot machines and roulette for players who prefer to play with smaller stakes. A wide range of table games such as Blackjack, Baccarat, Roulette, Casino War and Poker is available in varying betting amounts. The idea is to keep people busy with what the property has to offer, and doing it in a pleasurable manner as possible.

Expectations regarding the value for money are inbuilt for the casino branding strategies. Based on online forums and interviews, there are at least three people who commented about the food and another four about the accommodation. For instance, there are a blogger who made a remark that “the casino provides a variety of free hot and cold drinks and snacks within the casino so serious gamblers don’t have to leave their games.” While another blogger also make a statement that: These are my collections of Free Mugs from Genting Highlands Casinos or Venetian Macao. I have so many of them. It comes in two shapes. It only goes to show that the Genting brand is not only famous of the property but also the perks and privileges that comes with playing in the property. As well, the brand provides for anything that the brand can offer when the patrons leave the property.

While at this subject, it would be right to discuss how loyalty pays at Venetian Macao. The casino endows members with the choice of WorldCard membership, with benefits available all year round. Genting WorldCard is developed to continuously enhance the Genting Casino brand, its value and benefits. Rewards and exclusive offers are innate for the WorldCard. Genting points, however, are easily awarded based on gaming activities inside the casino. The accumulated points can be used in redeem room, show tickets, theme park or products and services at participating merchants’ outlets. Points have a shelf life of three years from the date of transaction and unutilized points will automatically expire after that period. At Genting Reward Gallery, members can purchase luxury goods at exclusive members’ only-prices. Discounts are also available for members who are going to pay for the goods in full through Genting points.

Brand Measurement

To put people as the primary brand advocates, Venetian Macao knows that the business is not just all about what the property did particularly well, but it is also about being informed on the segmentation, frequency of visitation, geography and game type. In sum, the brand strength of Venetian Macao could be represented as follows:

 

BRAND STRENGTH INDICATORS

YES

NO

REMARKS

Value-added Attributes

- non-duplication

- distribution

- promotion

- pricing

- customer service

- access

ü

 

 

Brand Knowledge

- levels of familiarity

- image awareness

- customer recalls

 

ü

 

Brand Preference

- individual motivation

- ability to purchase

- attitudes and behaviors toward consumption

-levels of attachment

ü

 

 

Table 2 Brand Measurement Indicators

Value Added Attributes

Venetian Macao has obviously effective promotion and distribution strategies as the company tapped every advertising avenue or channel that they possibly exploit. Non-duplication lies on the property itself. Only the Genting Group has the capability to build a hotel resort located at 6,000 feet above sea level. Access however is limited. One proof is its website which warns that you are about to enter a casino site thus confirm that the person must be above 21 years of age and a non-Muslim. Even so, this is perceived to be advantageous to Muslim Malaysians. Venetian Macao continuously strives to provide quality, excellent customer services through its competent internal customers or the employees. Although the casino is not very particular with the prices, since monopoly exists, value for money is sought.

Brand Knowledge

Although the interviews, blogs and forums do not confirm that there is positive brand knowledge, it was vindicated that Venetian Macao brand enjoys a strategic position in the global casino industry. In Malaysia, we can expect that there is a positive brand image because of the fact that Venetian Macao provides for thousands of jobs and contributed to the government income. However, there remains the fact that Venetian Macao is competing in the global environment so familiarity and recall must not only center Malaysians. Most of the blogs found are not written by Malaysians. 

Brand Preference

If we are going to consider internal customers, there could be a positive brand preference. Venetian Macao is a prestige place to work for and comes with the perks and privileges of being employed. External customers’ brand preference would be high for Asians most especially. For those who will come from other regions like the UK and US and will play in Asia, they will have more choices like Macao and the Philippines. Naturally, casino enthusiasts have the capacity to purchase and have incomes to dispose. However, levels of attachment and individual motivation could not be affirmed. Because, based on what I have read, people who came to casinos always have a company either by friends, family, subordinates and relatives among others. About the levels of attachment, attachment to gambling might have a negative connotation. Anyhow, levels of attachment would be positive for the internal customers since Venetian Macao serves as their ‘bread and butter’.

 

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