Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Marketing managers and responsible gaming managers have the same ultimate goal

Player protection has typically been viewed as a compliance activity by online operators. This was re-affirmed to me following a recent discussion I had on the benefits of player behaviour tracking with a marketing manager. A summary of our conversation will be familiar to many in the industry;
  • The use of behaviour tracking technology is primarily used for detecting VIP players (such as grinders at poker) in order to quickly identify them and retain them before they slip away 
  • Acquisition costs are high and these types of players are difficult to get
  • A relatively small percentage of players deliver the largest share of revenues
  • Therefore focusing on VIPs is not an unreasonable strategy 
But what about the vast majority of players that do not fall into this VIP category? Are operators realising as much value from these relationships as they could be? If the answer is no then could responsible gaming and player protection be better leveraged to manage the customer lifecycle? And what if the the marketing and responsible gaming managers were measured using similar KPIs (key performance indicators)?

Marketing 101 text books will teach you the importance of STP; segmentation, targeting and positioning. If executed well STP can move an organisation from differentiation to customisation, the holy grail of marketing. But this is very hard to get right. Take an industry that has been here for a long time such as financial services. To do this well the organisation must be able to collect customer data from all channels, monitor significant triggers in a customer’s life (e.g. change of job, significant credit), track key events and react accordingly (mortgage expiry), offer logical selections (such as savings v. competitors) and undertake propensity modelling based on key variables (such as credit company risk profiling). Whilst the best organisations can do this and do put more emphasis on maintaining the most profitable customer relationships they also put serious effort into making all customer relationships profitable and sustainable if possible.

 Applying these principles to online customer relationships could help convert some of the short-term player relationships to more sustainable relationships. How? For example, if one of your newly acquired non-VIP players was demonstrating early signs of problem gambling behaviour would it make more sense to send an undifferentiated marketing offer to this player or to send more personalised and meaningful tips on their game play and how they could keep it fun? In other words would you rather keep this type of player for a month or as an active player for 12+ months?

With this in mind why shouldn’t the responsible gaming manager also be measured and rewarded on player retention rates as well as their other responsibilities? And why shouldn’t the marketing manager be encouraged to design a sales campaign for a new regulated market that emphasises innovative player education features? Marketing is about meeting customer needs (and not primarily advertising) and responsible gaming should focus on all aspects of the customer lifecycle (and not solely compliance). Whilst marketing and responsible gaming managers' have different management responsibilities they ultimately have the same goal – building sustainable customer relationships.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

‘The Hidden Addiction’ - National Problem Gambling Clinic 1st Annual Conference, London

Yesterday I attended the National Problem Gambling Clinic’s first annual conference at the Royal Society of Medicine in London and I wanted to share some highlights from the day.  The clinic is headed by Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones and provides treatment services for people with gambling disorders in the UK. 

Mark Griffiths, a professor in gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, was the first speaker and talked predominantly about the impact of technology on the gambling industry and the opportunities and threats that this poses.  Mark shared with us his predictions on the trends he believes are going to shape gambling in the future, such as an emphasis on location-based marketing, greater use of behavioural tracking of player data and the growth of the in-play mobile market.

Professor Jim Orford from Birmingham University (recently awarded the Jellinek award for his academic contributions to addictions) talked about some of the key themes from his new book called ‘An Unsafe Bet’ and the dangers that gambling poses to public health.  The key takeaways from this talk were that over the years there has been an extraordinary increase in the gambling within society and that this causes concerns given gambling is dangerous and addictive.  He also argued that the public’s resistance to gambling is being eroded and that government and society are compliant in supporting industry interests in making gambling more socially acceptable, with one explanation being ‘Adaptation Theory’, which stipulates that an increased prevalence in gambling is coupled with society developing an ‘immunity to gambling’.  He shared an interesting statistic from the Australian Gambling Productivity Commission Report; "40% of gambling was problem gambling", which generated some debate.  A very frank and thought-provoking (and arguably controversial) talk indeed.

Back in June I wrote a short blog about a fascinating article in the Economist about the joys and perils of a near miss and I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet and listen to one of the key figures behind the research, Dr. Luke Clark from Cambridge University.   Amongst other findings from his research, Luke shared some very interesting brain imaging data looking at how the brain responds to near misses.  I would advise those interested in reading more about Luke’s research to read the original Economist article I referenced earlier in the year.  

Other speakers also included Dr. Neil Smith, principal psychologist at the clinic who discussed research into three approaches to cognitive-behavioural therapy undertaken by Robert Ladouceur, Nancy Petry and Tian Oeiand.  Also, Professor Wim van den Brink from the Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research shared insights from his research into addictions, discussing how genes and heritability, risk factors and social and environmental factors all play significant roles in determining addictions.  Henrietta wrapped-up with a presentation outlining research on what is known about social issues and pathological gambling, specifically discussing homelessness, physical health, crime and domestic violence.  Henrietta also paid tribute to Malcolm Bruce (Head of Sustainable Gambling at Betfair) who was instrumental in helping to arrange the funding for the clinic when he worked at the Responsible Gambling Fund before joining Betfair. 

A final note to two ex-gamblers who have received treatment at the clinic and who shared their experiences with the conference.  Nothing quite brings home the negative consequences of problem gambling as hearing first-hand the pain it can cause to people and their friends and families.  So a great conference which focused  on interesting themes and exciting research – I look forward to next year!