After the PokerStars Festival New Jersey failed to attract the numbers the Red Space would have expected, Lee Davy, outlines five key questions he believes were missing from the marketing plan.
Watching the world come to terms with the fact that a man who thinks Global Warming is a hoax created by the Chinese is now the most powerful man in the world I was struck by how far off target Hillary Clinton was when it came to understanding her customer.
Of all the quotes I listening to as I paced across my living room floor contemplating the news, the one that stands out the most, was Clinton saying that if she did lose the election then should would have to admit that she no longer recognised her country.
You don’t recognise your country because you don’t understand your core customer.
And you are not alone.
Was The PokerStars New Jersey Festival a Success?
Last week, PokerStars, the online poker room with over 70% global market share, decided to host their first live event in the United States in six years, when they partnered with Resorts Casino Hotel to host the PokerStars Festival New Jersey.
Six years ago, 21-year olds were 15.
Attendance figures for a company of the ambition of PokerStars were paltry. During an exclusive interview with PokerNews, Neil Johnson, PokerStars Head of All The Live Stuff, said, “It was a lot of fun, which is kind of the point.”
No, Neil, it wasn’t the point.
I can’t tell you if the festival was a success because I don’t know what the success criteria were. But from what I have learned from PokerStars behaviour since becoming a publicly traded company, the metric ‘having fun’ is unlikely to adorn the pages of the Executive Summary next to EBITDA and Opex.
It wasn’t a success, but it could have been.
Alex Dreyfus, founder of the Global Poker League (GPL), has always shown integrity and honesty by declaring that launching Season 1, at times, was a wet the finger and stick it high in the air game plan. He wanted to begin and see what he could learn to make it better.
But Dreyfus was trying something new.
PokerStars were hosting a live event, something they seem to be better than anyone else in the world at doing.
So what went wrong?
The Five Questions PokerStars Should be Asking
I think PokerStars failed to ask five essential questions before they decided to launch a live festival in New Jersey.
They are questions they repeatedly fail to ask when dealing with their online customers, masked by their large market share.
These five questions are not my own. They are the work of Bernadette Jiwa, a marketing smarty pants who works out of Australia.
Who is this story for?
I feel like a broken record, but PokerStars don’t sell a story, and this fascinates me when they have some of the greatest writers in poker on their payroll.
Instead, they pepper you with lazy, meaningless ads via email that gets lost in all the other noise. And even if PokerStars were to start implementing the art of storytelling into their marketing, they don’t understand who is listening. That much is true given the feedback that Johnson gave PokerNews during his interview.
“We don’t really have any direct experience marketing here, period,” Johnson told PokerNews.
But you do have experience dealing with people who like to gamble.
Why are we telling it?
PokerStars has to work on their core message, and it must be a message that conveys trust and connection. The New Jersey customer has been AWOL for six years. Why should they return to the tables after such a long time? And this is why, the Who? question is so vital. You can’t even begin contemplating the Why? without the Who?
What’s the message?
I don’t have the answer to this one, but I feel that it needs to be something that transcends gambling. There is a very biased focus towards money, and I’m not sure that cuts the mustard these days. How can PokerStars provide greater meaning & purpose in people’s lives? Figure that out, and you have your message.
How should we tell it? & Where will we share it?
The “How” and “Where” questions boil down to PokerStars insistence on what Johnson refers to as ‘traditional’ marketing. What on earth does that even mean? The word ‘traditional’ sounds very one-size-fits-all. Marketing needs to be focused. People change. Marketing needs to adapt and follow. Eyes and ears need to be in the right places.
It seems PokerStars don’t understand where their New Jersey client hang out. Where do they spend their time when they have put the kids to bed and are ready to settle down on the couch and watch some crap on TV? How do people commute? What do they do during their dinner breaks?
“It’s all online, and we’ve moved away from traditional marketing,” Johnson told PokerNews.
In summary, I think PokerStars dropped the ball by giving themselves only two months to organise the event without understanding who their customers were?
They started by thinking about what they should say to their customers instead of thinking about why they are saying it, and that will have to change before the return for PokerStars New Jersey Festival Mark II.