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The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University

Thursday, April 12, 2007

WISE2007: Randy Snow

Randy Snow works for R&R Partners. His session was entitled “What happens here, stays here:why your brand is built around your customer.” R&R Partners did the ads about Las Vegas that everyone admires.

Every ad campaign depends on one basic thng – to establish a brand and connect that brand with your customers. It is an emotional connection. The brand is a relationship betweena product and its customers. A brand is the best insurance against becoming a commodity. A brand is not a product. A brand exists in the heads of your customers. Marketers can try to direct that thinking.

They’ve worked with Las Vegas visitor center for about 30 years. Every ad campaign has come from their interaction with the customer.

In 1999, they were doing marketing the same way that other destination marketing was done (a video brochure on TV). Not a lot of concept or connection. It showed the product.

In 2000, the nature of Las Vegas had changed. More casinos in the nation. 48 out of 50 states had legalized gambling (not Hawaii or Utah). So Vegas is more than just gambling. What was it? Did an 18 month aqccount planning product. What is it about Vegas that draws people back? A common theme was freedom. Freedom to be a different person in Vegas than at home. When I’m in Vegas, my current reality melts away. Vegas is a state of mind.

The buildings are important, but they don’t provide an emotion connection.

There is also plenty of Las Vegas imagery out there already.

Fall 2000, Freedom Campaign – “Las Vegas: The Freedom to Start Your Own Party.” Their own presidential candidate.

Freedom Campaign – “Mud-flap girls” – About wanting to be in Vegas (Vegas or Bust).

Then 9-11 happened. Imagine working for a client (Vegas) that its clients have to fly to? They went and talked to people who were stuck in Vegas after 9-11. People said they should do what they’ve been doing. Don’t change anything. People knew that they would need a break and would want to go to Vegas.

When you think of Las Vegas, what is the first thing that comes to your head? Surveyed 2000 people. Did a new ad campaign (“It’s Time for You”).

Las Vegas when to pre 9-11 visitor levels faster than any other vacation area in the country, and has continued to grow.

Summer 2000 – “Vegas Calling”

2003 – Time for Vegas to embrace its adult-ness. Create a serious of ads – odd open-ended stories. “What happens here, stays here.™” No scripts, no stories. Let the actors run with the scenarios. Their customer trusted them.

You can get a lot of bang for very few dollars. They wanted to buy Super Bowl ads (2004), but the NFL banned the ads. They got a lot of mileage out of the news stories about the ban. News stories ran the ads. In the course of three days, they got $3 million in free airtime (with $200 of dubbed ads).

The actors and the talent have made this campaign.

Allow yourself to do something different. When opportunity knocks, allow yourself to open the door. Allow magic to happen.

2005 – The power of the campaign is that you decide what has happened. You can create your own fantasies. Engage your customers. Remember the brand is in the mind. The brand is fragile. You must take care of it and feed it.

How do they know that an ad has run its course? When the letters of complaint stop coming.

“Be anyone in Las Vegas.”

They have done print ads and associated web sites.

Personal Note: Once I heard that Randy Snow was going to speak at WISE, I knew that I wanted to hear him. I, like many others, admire those ads. It was very interesting to hear how the ad campaign was born and how it has changed over time. It was also interesting to hear about the market research they have done. For example, right after 9-11, when air travel came to a standstill, they surveyed people who were stuck in Vegas in order to understand what message Vegas needed to convey to vacationers in the wake of what surely was going to be a changed vacation market. What they heard was to not change anything, and that people who come back to Vegas.

They also tested -- for example -- the first "Freedom" ad to hear what women thought about it. The findings? Women loved it! (The woman in a limo going to the airport.)

He demonstrated the need for continued market research in order to understand how consumers are reacting to the brand.

I'm glad I did get to hear Randy Snow. He did not disappoint! Unlike Vegas, I hope that the lessons people learned from his presentation are discussed and passed along.

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