Book Review: Conrad on Casino Marketing

Dennis Conrad. Conrad on Casino Marketing. Reno: Raving Consulting Company Press, 2008. 240 pages.

Casino marketing is a tricky business. It’s basically sales without a tangible product. There’s not even a warm and fuzzy afterglow most of the time, because the games that casino marketers ask their customers to play are negative expectation. Most people will go home losers most of the time.

So casino marketers need all the help they can get. Dennis Conrad, a seasoned marketing veteran, offers them some real gems in his latest book, Conrad on Casino Marketing. The book collects his articles from 2000 to 2008 that originally appeared in Casino Journal and Native American Casino Magazine, and offers a series of short, to-the-point, pieces on specific issues in casino marketing.

Conrad has several themes that he returns to. First, casino marketing isn’t just a department, it’s an entire approach. Everyone who works for the casino should be selling it to customers old and new. Second, marketing the casino should begin with what the customer wants and work its way outward. This makes so much sense that it should be self-evident but is apparently not. From pointless lines to poor game selection, there are many areas where Conrad insists casinos are not listening to their customers. Third, casino executives need to get more involved. Everyone from the valet parker to the CFO needs to spend time listening to and talking with customers.

The articles that originally appeared in Native American Casino Magazine are predominantly aimed at advising Indian casinos, but much of the advice is equally applicable to smaller casinos in less mature markets throughout the country.

Conrad clearly knows what he’s talking about, and he is able to present his ideas in a clear fashion. He has a fine conversational voice as an author, and isn’t too proud to admit his occasional mistakes. Not all ideas are good ideas, and as amusing as his stories of casino promotions gone wrong are, they are also educational. We laugh with Conrad, but we learn from him as well.

Given that this is a collection of articles, there is some repetition of ideas. This is to be expected, since Conrad feels strongly about his topic and necessarily wrote about similar issues over an eight-year run. The result is a series of pieces that reinforce his general themes.

True to Conrad’s vision of a pan-casino marketing force, I have a humble suggestion about how this book could best be used. Why not have all the executives read a single chapter each week, then pass on Conrad’s insights to their shift supervisors, who in turn discuss it with line employees? Then have the execs circulate among the line employees and discuss the article in question. They are pretty brief, and their core purpose could be easily covered in a pre-shift meeting. I think if implemented correctly, this could spark a real dialogue about marketing that would benefit everyone.

If you’re in the casino business, this is a book you should definitely read. Whether it confirms what you already thought you knew or opens your eyes to a new perspective, Conrad on Casino Marketing is sure to make you think.