Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Changing Health and Wealth Behaviors with Analytics

I read an interesting article on the HBR about how the growing importance of analytics in helping people to make more informed choices about health and wealth. The authors state that consumers respond differently to different interventions designed to change their behaviors, and because some consumers have greater problems than others in health and wealth, analytics can be extremely helpful to prioritize efforts and to determine just what works with whom. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree, their point that traditional approaches (e.g. face-to-face support and educational initiatives) won’t work in the future fails to highlight the fact that these interventions are and will remain critical, even though they are costly to scale. Therefore support and interventions for those most in need should always be available. The challenge is to use more advanced approaches that leverage technology and data to ensure people take more control of their health decisions on a day-to-day basis and do not fall into this category.

Monday, 27 September 2010

EASG Conference – Some Links to Interesting Presentations

I was fortunate enough to attend the European Association of Gambling Studies conference in Vienna a couple of weeks back and the EASG have kindly posted the presentations on their website. There is a lot of really interesting information posted, and whilst it will take a long time to review them all, I’m going to give you some links to some of the sessions I attended.

Alex Blaszczynski from the University of Sydney gave a thought-provoking presentation on approaches to better understand the relationship between internet addiction and gambling whilst John McMullan from Saint Mary’s University (Canada) demonstrated an immense knowledge and understanding of online poker marketing and promotion and what this means from a responsible gambling perspective.

For a more detailed look at new thinking into problem gambling detection, I heard Tony Schellinck from Dalhousie University (Canada) give an overview of the work they are undertaking on developing FLAGS, a screen which acts as an early warning system to measure problem gambling risk. Joerg Haefeli from Lucerne University (Switzerland) gave an interesting overview of early detection research based on call centre data and his colleague Suzanne Lischer built on this when talking about early detection processes for problem gambling.

An increasing area of interest in academia is the link between youth gambling and social media, with presentations from Jani Kinnunen from the University of Tampere (Finland) and Jennifer Reynolds from the University of Toronto.

Finally, Sally Gainsbury from Southern Cross University (Australia) in Parallel Session 1 talked about the effectiveness of online interventions in the treatment of problem gambling and Henrietta Bowden-Jones told us about the great work she and her team are undertaking at the UK’s first NHS National Problem Gambling Clinic.

I could go on and on as there were many many other interesting talks and presentations but I would be here for some time!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Can the online gambling industry continue to grow profits whilst protecting players?

I’ve now completed my interviews with senior stakeholders this summer and the report is now available to view at Cass Business School’s website. First I’d like to thank the participants for taking part in this phase of my research. I interviewed representatives from the commercial sector, including Tim Phillips, Betfair’s Director of European Public Affairs, Clive Hawkwood, CEO at the Remote Gambling Association and Jean Moreau Jørgensen who is the Executive Director at the World Lotteries Association. It was very interesting talking to the commercial sector to understand both the initiatives operators are undertaking to progress the responsible gaming agenda and also to learn more about the challenges they face.

From academia I had the pleasure of talking to Professor Alex Blaszczynski from the University of Sydney, Dr Jonathan Parke from Salford University and Professor Roger Steare from Cass Business School. I found the academics were very open and balanced in their points of view, in terms of cautioning against jumping to generalisations about any links between internet gambling and problem gambling however also challenging the operators to do more where they can.

I also had very interesting conversations with the Andy McLellan, CEO of GamCare and Tex Rees who is eCOGRA’s Fair Gaming Advocate and John Carr OBE, Secretary of the UK Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. It was encouraging to see how the commercial sector is collaborating and supporting organisations such as GamCare and eCOGRA to help deliver a fair and safe gaming environment and also to help support vulnerable gamblers. I also interviewed Christel Schaldemose MEP, who has been actively involved in driving the political debate around consumer protection in the European Parliament and who authored last year’s report on the integrity of online gaming.

It was very enlightening talking to such a diverse and expert range of stakeholders and I learned a lot from the experience. As you could imagine, such a diverse range of people did at times take differing viewpoints on some issues. However whilst people had differing views on the best approaches, what was clear to me was that everyone was focused on trying to build a sustainable online gambling industry. I hope you enjoy the paper!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Loyalty isn't Foverver: How to Embrace Social Change to Build Your Brand

I want to share some great examples of how organisations have put sustainability at the heart of their businesses via innovative and at times controversial social initiatives. Using brands for social change is one of the most effective ways in which corporations can quickly move beyond 'traditional CSR' i.e. companies have in the past focused on communicating CSR to their stakeholders so that it has a positive impact on their reputation. The opposite of this is a corporation using its brand’s ability to change consumer behaviour as a way of changing social behaviour.

A good example of this approach is the brand agenda of MTV. For over two decades, MTV has placed social-issue campaigning at the heart of its brand, and has used this technique as a powerful and distinctive method of communicating and identifying with its target audience. In the process it has arguably done more than any other commercial organisation to tackle cultural taboos and change youth attitudes on issues like HIV/AIDS and human rights.

Youth is a key segment for gambling operators and harnessing young peoples’ social consciences to build an operators brand offers a range of possibilities. Zynga, the world’s leading social network game developer, is using its network of 180 million players to raise millions for good causes through players purchasing virtual goods. A key challenge for online gambling operators is that whilst there is no conclusive evidence linking the prevalence of problem gambling with the internet, the online channel is more prevalent with the youth segment, which could therefore be a factor in increasing the prevalence of problem gambling.

Unilever’s Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which focused on women, was considered an unqualified marketing success by many in industry. Unilever took a controversial approach by blatantly debunking the dream that supermodel beauty was within a woman’s grasp, tipping focus away from aspiration towards realism. The campaign filmed Unilever executives’ own daughters discussing their self esteem challenges, which had an enormous impact on consumers. Further stages in the campaign centred on running self-esteem workshops for women and developing a 112 second YouTube film to drive awareness to the workshops. The film had been viewed 3 million times within 3 months of being released.

Friday, 10 September 2010

How sure are you that you will be in business in the future? Health and Sustainability

Over the summer I’ve been talking to a number of senior stakeholders within the online gaming industry on themes related to how to build a sustainable industry. A couple of papers related to my research will be published later this year, however people have been asking me what other companies in other industries are doing to help build customer loyalty through sustainable practices.

So as executives become increasingly worried about the impact of sustainability on the corporate bottom line, I’m taking a look at the themes of Safety, Social Change, The Environment, Fairness and Health to see what ideas from other industries can be leveraged to sustain the online gaming industry. A whitepaper will be posted on the Bet Buddy website soon but here is a view on Health and sustainability.

Many companies are now beginning to address sustainability issues beyond their four walls, particularly upstream in the supply chain. For example, Marks and Spencer launched Plan A in 2007 and are considered a leader in developing fair and sustainable business partnerships with their third world supplier.

However, Thomas Singer of SustainAbility argues that few examples exist of companies that have begun to act upon the realisation that their sustainability impact also extends downstream to their customers. Singer argues that the next frontier is likely to be about addressing this downstream impact, and companies that take this leap will find themselves well positioned for sustainability leadership. The first challenge, however, will be coming to terms with the notion that the customer may not always be right.

In the UK, a growing number of supermarkets and food manufacturers are using traffic light colours on the labels of products to help consumers make more informed choices. Companies such as Sainsbury, Asda and McCain say that the introduction of food labelling has had a very positive impact on product development and their customers, who have found food labelling both informative and reassuring. Now customers have experienced the benefits of food labelling, would they expect anything less? See what companies and people are saying at this Food Standards Agency video.

So could a similar approach be used within online gambling? Some say yes. Players are often presented with too much information to be able to make rationale and informed choices & are susceptible to taking the wrong decisions. Therefore, providing players with feedback on their play, such as if their bet frequency has increased significantly, could help promote more sustainable gambling practices.

Consumer decision making is further explored in Sunstien and Thaler’s book ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’. The authors say that everyone’s "Inner Homer Simpson" drives us to make flawed decisions, which I explored in a previous blog.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Saving the world through changing your casino

So we can now bet and lose our cash with a weight lifted from our moral conscience through Green Bet. The way it works is that if you set-up an account and gamble through a Green Bet affiliate, the operator puts aside 45% of its winnings (or your losses) towards a project to develop a Green Tower solar project in North Africa. So, do punters have a green conscious, to such an extent that they are prepared to switch and set-up online accounts with Green Bet affiliates? Well, William Hill online have signed-up, so maybe. The idea is novel and I have no objections to it, however success depends upon enough operators to be willing to sign-up to the programme. Operators are incredibly protective of their brands so my guess is the majority will sit back and wait and see what happens. Also, wouldn’t it be better and more appealing if the players themselves had a say in which charities their losses supported? And whilst I have nothing against solar projects in Africa, what about helping the betting operators to focus on the sustainability initiatives that really matter to the industry and their customers?