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Rod Smith

Harrah's Execs: Database Mining Key to Marketing Success

27 July 2004

LAS VEGAS -- The key to Harrah's Entertainment's marketing success has been its centralized database mining, a trio of company executives told attendees at the 2004 National Conference on Casino Marketing on Monday.

The conference, being held at the Rio from Sunday through today, was produced by Raving Consulting and Ascend Media Gaming Group with the support of International Game Technology and Acres Gaming.

Dennis Conrad, president of Raving Consulting, said the event's centerpiece panel discussion focused on Harrah's as the leading success story in casino marketing nationwide.

Michael Weaver, vice president for marketing at the Rio, said Harrah's core strength is relationship marketing.

"When others were building beautiful buildings, we were building a beautiful database, and that's paid off for us," he said.

Panel members said the database marketing programs are dictated by corporate headquarters, which frees up individual properties to be creative in developing promotions.

"Coming up with reasons to get the first-time customer has been the biggest challenge for us. And we're so concerned about getting returns for investors, it can be very limiting for us," Weaver said.

Conrad said one of the dreaded moments for any Harrah's property is the arrival of the so-called MASH units, a rescue program the company has developed to correct problems when marketing programs go array.

Weaver said: "No one walks in and says the patient is fine. They immediately start with the last rites."

Ginny Shanks, senior vice president for acquisition marketing, said the database mining and the technology on which it is based will grow in the future as casino operations become more high tech.

"In the future, you'll get offers at the slot. If you're losing, you'll get a free buffet at the slot. It'll be a lot more interactive. That's where the innovation will occur," she said.

But Weaver said that creates its own issues, explaining that customers already can come into the Rio, get change at an ATM, play slots and claim comps without ever talking with a human being.

"One issue is at what point does the customer have an interaction with an employee that is a validating experience?" he said. "(Customers) feel important because of the human interaction, and technology (has the power) to make that go away (if we aren't careful)."

Harrah's Execs: Database Mining Key to Marketing Success is republished from