Sunday, June 27, 2010

Leaving Las Vegas (with tons marketing of ideas)

Las Vegas. To most people those two words conjure visions of sparkling lights, slot machines and that scene from The Hangover with the tiger, a baby and a chicken. You know, standard Vegas fare. But for Black Sheep, the City of Sin is more about fluorescently lit convention centers, swag and poorly constructed hip hop. No need to re-read… we said hip hop.

That’s right, it’s trade show time for our client, PFS Group, and we’ve spent the last few days living the good life and listening to the same 5 songs over and over again. In case you don’t know, the campaign for this healthcare accounts receivable outsourcing company is centered around a fictional character, Dr. Paid, a struggling rapper “discovered” by PFS Group with a knack for financial jargon and a passion for commercialized music.

Naturally, the bored-out-of-their-gourd people walking around staring at what might as well be third grade science fair projects find our departure from the expected exhibit more than welcoming. And the martini bar doesn’t hurt either.

The entire trade show experience always gets our brains working overtime, considering the next great step for the campaign and how we can help our other clients too. Las Vegas is an interesting place in terms of publicity and advertising, so we just try to soak it all in and let the creative juices (and Champagne) flow. Here’s what we learned:

1. Make it a Wynn-win situation. Now, night clubs aren’t necessarily the types of establishments we frequent, mostly because of the potential for awkward Situations. But, in Vegas it’s kind of unavoidable. Steve Wynn (of the major hotel) and Sean Christie, “nightlife impresario” (his words, not mine) established Surrender when the economy was turning south. His fist-pump haven counterparts cut costs, scaled back and withdrew from scene, but Surrender did quite the opposite. They forged ahead with their plans and promoted the hell out of their new brand.

And it worked! Their expensive bottle service and decadent atmosphere hasn’t deterred customers at all, and because they didn’t shy away, this club is now one of the most popular places on the Vegas strip. We’re not saying you should blow your budget or ignore the economy, but this is the perfect example of why marketing should be the last line item to cross off in tumultuous times.

2. Sweat the small stuff. People say everything in Texas is big, but that seems like a more appropriate statement for Vegas. We’ve stayed in the more famous hotels like Caesar’s Palace, the kind that have elaborate casinos and look like something out of a grown-up Disney Land. When we found out we were staying at Trump, we were kind of disappointed! Where’s the fun, right?

Wrong. It was amazing. And for non-gamblers like us, all of the little things made up for the lack of grandeur. We had free wifi, complimentary gym passes and full kitchens in our room. And that says something that us marketers should take to heart, don’t you think? Keeping the details in check and making sure a campaign or event, even if it’s not flashy or loud, has everything in place. And, if you’re going to make a statement, make one that’s also well thought out and smart – not cheesy and outdated.

3. You gotta gamble to win big. Like I said earlier, we’re not really gamblers… in the literal since any way. But, we had to try out a slot machine just to say we did. We popped in a quarter, pulled the lever and watched the pictures of cherries, dollar signs and pineapples (I don’t understand the fruit) spin around and around. Finally, it stopped. Two fruits and a dollar sign. Boo.

But what did we expect? A million dollars from a measly quarter? Well yes. But, rarely does that happen. And rarely, in marketing, does it work that way either. You have to take risks – sometimes big ones – to get attention. Just look at our PFS Campaign! We were nervous about even PITCHING the idea to our client and now we promote the most highly sought after rapper in the healthcare finance world. Not too shabby!

All in all, it was a pretty good trip. We’re glad Dr. Paid was such a success (he got asked to perform at a regional conference ON A REAL STAGE), and we’re ready to take our Vegas-sized ideas and get moving!

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