Free Play and Cash Back versus Loyalty Merchandise

Don’t underestimate trophy value.

With the fourth quarter staring us smack in the face, it is time to start thinking about helping your patrons cross items off their holiday shopping lists. Yes, it is widely acknowledged that free play and cash back programs are easy to implement and return revenue back to the casino in the form of reinvestment (tax ramifications not withstanding), but it is proven time and time again that they do very little, if anything, to create patron loyalty. Why is that? It is a phenomenon known as “trophy value.” They can’t wrap up free play and give it as a gift, but tangible rewards have a shelf life far beyond non-tangible rewards, and make no mistake about it, your patrons love them!

Everyone remembers how and where they got tangible items when they get them for free, or at least the perception of “free,” or as an award for performing some action. In the case of the casino world, they came, they played, they stayed, they ate, they golfed, etc. … and you rewarded them with points and other special considerations for doing so. If they decided to (or even had the option to) turn those points in for golf clubs, an LCD television, a household appliance, or even a little old clock radio that sits on their nightstand — they remember where and when they did so. Even travel awards produce pictures, videos and memories that outlast cash and free play.

Brand is King

With today’s discriminating consumer, to simply give a no name, cheap import “freebie” is not enough. To give away a generic $2 doorbuster item is common and tolerated, but when they are using their hard-earned points to acquire an item, it had better be a name they know. According to a recent brand survey, the following are some of the top worldwide consumer brands in different categories, all of which can be acquired for your merchandise loyalty programs or events and promotions (Mercedes Benz was #1; I left it off, but have actually sourced two for a client!):

~ Rolex
~ Apple
~ Dyson
~ Bang & Olufsen
~ Fisher-Price
~ Cadbury
~ Samsung
~ Wedgewood
~ Black & Decker

So consider giving brands that mean something to your patrons, and don’t just come off as a deal your purchasing department found on the street.

Big Value in Small Packages

If your gift-giving initiative is an on-premise loyalty store, gift of the month, play to earn, etc. … award, consider the notion that smaller is better. Your patrons don’t need to be lugging a microwave or croquet set to their cars to feel like they got something of value (at the risk of them leaving). Consider these awards that all weigh two pounds or less, have high perceived value, and can fit in your smallest shopping bag or an average sized Vera Bradley tote:

~ Tablets
~ Digital Cameras
~ GPS Devices
~ iPods
~ Range Finders (a must for us golf fanatics — throw in a dozen golf balls!)
~ Earbud Headphones
~ Ultrabooks
~ Sunglasses

So remember, if they can touch it, see it, experience it, or even taste the gift, it has a tangible value that will last as long as the item does, and remind them why they are so important to you. That is truly a “trophy” that is given in both directions.

Gary Galonek


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