Macau tests the strength of its brands

Macau casino owners know how to build fabulous resorts but not necessarily strong brands. Leading casino operators SJM Holdings and Sands China Ltd run their properties under a variety of names, without any unifying theme or brand promise.

“A brand must offer a consistent brand promise,” Gaming Marketing Advisors principal Andrew Klebanow explains. “It must also offer a clear image in the customer’s mind. By buying a branded product the customer has a high degree of assurance what he/she is buying.” Klebanow cites McDonald’s – “the product will be hot, tasty, served fast and offer good value” – and Hard Rock – “hip environment, rock music and glass showcases filled with rock memorabilia” – as successful brands. Macau casinos, with the exception of Wynn Macau, mainly have property names that have not yet evolved into brands.

Casino owners hope to change that. Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd will bring its City of Dreams name from Macau to Manila at a new integrated resort expected to open this year. Brand Stand (Macau Business, December 2013, page 64, payment required) looks at the prospects for its success and for brand building in Macau.

The article also examines the history of the Sands brand. Sands China parent Las Vegas Sands Corp was the last owner of the iconic Sands Hotel and Casino, playground of Hollywood’s legendary Rat Pack and its 1960s successor, The Summit, led by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. While Sands survived as a corporate name after hotel’s implosion in 1995 and appears on some of the company’s properties, it hasn’t reemerged as a brand.

Macau companies do have a successful Asian example to follow, Resorts World, part of Malaysia’s Genting Group. In less than five years, Resorts World has become the first truly global casino brand, with outposts in Asia, the US, and Europe, though not Macau. As Macau’s casino companies try to spread their wings in the region, particularly Asian gaming’s great white whale, Japan (Macau Business, October 2013, pg 86), brands will become a bigger factor. Last month, Japan began its long road to casino legalization (Macau Business, January 2014, page 78, payment required), with the outcome still uncertain. Brands provide a comfort level for governments as well as investors. Like customers, brands help them believe they can know in advance what they’ll get from a casino company.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

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