It's Time for Mad Men
Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed TV drama Mad Men details the birth of America’s Golden Age (1950s-1960s) through the commercial conception of the nation’s first giant corporations. Through the bright but flawed minds of the staff of fictional marketing agency ‘Sterling Cooper & Partners’, Weiner shrewdly depicts this defining period in American history. Agency Sterling Cooper helps new US corporations define their products, audiences and brand values, mirroring the nation’s social adjustments during an era which still impacts modern society. For better or worse, Weiner tells his audience that modern America and its values were built by its corporate brands. Writing this article for iGB, I can think of no better way of highlighting the power of creating effective brand principals, a factor which I feel has been neglected in the existing relationship between affiliates and iGaming operators. It is an issue that I have been contemplating of late as we launch our own brand, aiming to provide the market with a fresh-looking casino which appeals to a new audience and working hard to engage the customer in a new way. For a number of years, this industry has debated how marketing and player acquisition conditions have become more challenging for both affiliates and operators. These conditions are well known by industry marketers and therefore need no introduction. We are all aware of market saturation in iGaming, of channel costs being driven up and that we are now dealing with a more sophisticated audience which is harder to retain. This current marketing context, combined with a real lack of differentiation by industry operators’ product offerings, has led to the market being primarily driven by pricing differentials.
At present, our industry’s focus on pricing as its lead customer incentive has to some extent become an unhealthy obsession which impacts all operations within the sector’s value chain, regardless of whether a stakeholder works as a publisher/affiliate or an operator. As a key player channel, affiliate marketing has suffered from not recognising the integral value of brand marketing as a vital practice. In 2016 operators must look to begin to redevelop effective brand propositions to feed to all of their channels, not just their player base. At an operator level, this should begin with devising effective brand messaging through content creation and editorial, a factor that has been strongly undervalued by the sector. If we assess content output through multiple social media channels, we see that iGaming operators really drive the same messaging and promotions, which are all underlined by price incentives. I must highlight that the current industry context with regards to brand proposition is an organic predicament created by the industry and its day-to-day functions. We must remember that iGaming was one of the internet’s original boom industries; in order to service its growth and expanding player base, operators were rushed to market focusing on price/value incentives as the lead device for acquiring users. As marketers we will have different opinions in how far we have progressed in our marketing operations. But the legacy of the industry’s early engagement functions has no doubt left a mark on current trends and practices. As the industry enters its conference season, a key period for all stakeholders, I urge affiliates and marketing partners to assess the brand values of the operators they choose to promote. Let’s remember that in iGaming, supplier content partnerships can be changed, operator platforms and devices can be improved and affiliate terms can be renegotiated. However, an operator’s brand values are much harder to readjust or redevelop in order to make them impactful to the consumer. Put simply, in 2016 it would benefit all industry marketers to become a bit Mad!
“As a key player channel, affiliate marketing has suffered from not recognising the integral value of brand marketing as a vital practice.”