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Chris Kudialis

Use different sales approach for millennials, speaker advises

1 April 2015

Amid falling confetti, thumping music, hundreds of alcoholic beverage samples and an exhibition center packed with nightclub and bar merchants from around the world, millennials were a hot topic of discussion Tuesday at the second day of the 2015 Nightclub &Bar Show.

The industry-only trade show, which ends today, welcomed an estimated 40,000 people, including more than 700 merchants, operating across 300,000 square feet its 30th year at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Merchants ranged from popular international companies such as Budweiser and Heineken to locally owned small businesses and bars.

Exhibition halls opened Tuesday with a keynote speech by trade-show founder Jon Taffer, who also hosts Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue.” Speaking to several hundred convention participants, Tapper said the industry’s target of 23- to 30-year-olds place greater importance on their bar experiences over the quality of what they eat and drink.

“We are not in the business of selling food and beverages, we sell experiences,” Taffer said. “Millennials connect with causes, with stories. They need to have a reason to come.”

Stories can be told over social media, Taffer said, where businesses have the power to distinguish and brand themselves more than ever. “Millennials don’t care about old brands. They don’t relate to old brands and history and tradition. They’re all about stories and what’s going on today,” he said.

“If heads don’t bob, we lose,” Tapper added. “If feet don’t move, we lose.”

Nightclub &Bar Show merchants said they’ve had mixed success marketing to the millennial generation.

Tom Thompson, business development director for the largest producer of Bloody Mary mixes in the United States, said the company has experimented with multiple label changes to keep the younger generation interested in a company that has been around since the 1950s.

“When people walk into a liquor store, you have to draw their eyes to it somehow,” said Thompson, who works for Major Peters. “Once their eyes are drawn to it, they’re more inclined to give it a shot.”

Spencer Weiner is marketing director for California-based Caribbean Coffee Co., another company on the exhibition floor. A nonalcoholic beverage, Caribbean’s craft coffee markets exclusively to millennials through sustainability, fair trade and a variety of flavors.

The company was handing out reusable glass cups to visitors, trying to reduce waste from plastic sample cups.

“Millennials are everything to us,” Weiner said, “It’s the only way for newer groups like us to be successful.”

Among the most popular new products to hit the convention floor were tobacco-free vapor hookahs and an arcade-style beer pong table designed for bars.

Randy Jacob of Fantasia Distributors said his vapor hookah, the e-bowl, had been available for only three months. He said the product, which sells for $40 to $80, has been a popular buy for smokers looking to slowly kick the habit.

“It’s an alternative to tobacco smoking, but it still has a little nicotine,” Jacob said.

Las Vegas-based Cigr8 boasted its e-hookah, Nada, required only water and a special vape formula containing chemicals found in potato chips and fruit.

“Natural, clean and flavorful,” a Cig8 representative said.

Aerospace engineer Kern Jensen said he spent nearly three years designing, patenting and marketing the PowerPong table, a spectacularly lit, spill-resistant beer pong-style table with retracting cups. The table, which sells for $6,400, represents a classier way to play pong games at bars and restaurants, Jensen said.

“This is the first product of its kind, and we’ve seen remarkable interest so far,” Jensen said after just over an hour of displaying the table. “You’re going to see this in local bars very soon.”