Frank Floor Talk: Influencers bring a fun new perspective to slot play

July 26, 2023 8:00 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports
July 26, 2023 8:00 AM
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports

Influencer endorsements have been a component of advertising business models for ages. The appearance of “slot influencers” and their impact on casino marketing strategies, therefore, should not have come as a surprise – but it did.

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Product and service influencers typically are established stars from the entertainment and sports worlds. Slot influencers use the power of social media platforms to break away from being just a face in the crowd to attain celebrity status.

It is a phenomenon that caught the industry off guard. The fact of the matter is, with the rapid evolution of slots into sensory stimulating high-tech marvels of entertainment, the time was right for the games, along with the people who play them, to take on lives all their own and escalate into a new realm of appreciation.

Of course, no one has done it better than Brian Christopher, but many others have followed in his footsteps. Some fall by the wayside, others catch lightning in a bottle. The magic is all about making a connection and inviting viewers to live vicariously through slot exploits they themselves have the power of emulating.

Casino marketing divisions could not help but take notice, quickly transitioning from protocols on the gaming floor that were not slot influencer friendly to greeting them with open arms and even making logistical accommodations. Even the manufacturers jumped aboard the slot influencer welcome wagon.

Julia Carcamo, president and chief brand strategist for J Carcamo & Associates, a marketing firm based in greater New Orleans, Louisiana, believes the attraction that slot influencers have with the public is two-fold.

“I think people are fascinated first with slot influencers as a group of people,” she said. “We tend to all have a Robin Leach inspired ‘Life Styles of the Rich and Famous’ curiosity with ‘champagne and caviar’ dreams.

“Second, playing the slots is something everyone can do. The influencers started out recording their sessions on their own, out-of-pocket. People think to themselves ‘that could be me’ and then just sort of connect with it.”

In this columnist’s humble opinion, the most significant contribution of slot influencers is the fact they personalized the slot component of gaming. They gave it character, reimagined it, and unveiled its potential in much the same way as table games are traditionally showcased.

It is a ‘team sport’ for players at the craps table, except perhaps for that quiet fellow standing on the ‘hook’ playing the Don’t. A special swell of camaraderie erupts when rooting for a hot shooter, celebrating when points are made, and cheering when the dice pass.

Same for the blackjack table. Players form a bond hoping the dealer will bust, revel during a “hot shoe”, and high-five one another for a blackjack. They cringe in unison when that player who just joined the game at third base in mid-shoe takes the dealer’s bust card.

The slots are a different story. It is the player and the machine one-on-one. No fear of making a mistake and incurring the wrath of your tablemates. No intimidation. No strategy to master. Just you against machine, where pushing a button or touching the screen is all that is required to escape the everyday.

Slot influencers have made playing slot games a virtual team sport that invites viewers to make it a participation sport filled with drama, anticipation, celebration, enthusiasm, and yes, even disappointment. All it takes to get in on the fun is a visit to a casino.

As a collective group, slot influencers have breathed life and personality into slot play. They made the operators look at the games in a refreshing new way, not just on a coin-in/coin-out lifeless statistical scale.

Julia Carcamo, an expert with four decades of casino marketing experience, was one of the first in her field with the insight and experience necessary to appreciate the value that slot influencers could bring to the gaming industry.

She created a virtual series of eight webinars titled “Winning Influencer Marketing”, a component of J Carcamo & Associates’ “Casino Marketing Boot Camp”.

“Lady Luck HQ was part of the webinar series,” Carcamo revealed. “She was still working her day job and creating videos only on weekends and with her own wallet. Two years later the casinos and the manufacturers are paying her to do those videos.”

Some slot influencers play with high-roller bankrolls, making max bets on dime, quarter, and even dollar machines. Bigger bets translate into big wins, frequently hand-pays, something to which the customer who slips a twenty-dollar bill into a penny machine and plays 80, 120, or 160 credits per spin cannot relate.

Carcamo takes this into consideration, observing that “there are a lot of other influencers who have sizable audiences that really resonate with the regional customer in particular”.

“Look at the Slot Cats,” she said. “They are a husband-wife team who started out as average casino players doing their own thing with their own wallet. It didn’t take them long to put two-and-two together and start doing it as a hobby.

“I have placed them at properties to do events. Slot Cats represent another category of slot influencers, namely the core customer in a regional market who isn’t spending a great amount of money. When you see them, they just fit in with the other guests who very much identify with them.”

Slot influencers bring value and appreciation to slot players, identity that was incapable of being recognized, or perhaps even appreciated, before they made the scene. In addition to building customer base, they serve as a catalyst to increase market share for a property within a competitive region.

“I see growing customer base with influencers as opportunity. There are the times a property will bring in a slot influencer,” Carcamo observed. “Marketing will create events around that influencer’s appearance. They may do a slot tournament, a VIP event, or a meet-and-greet.

“The goal is to get one more visit from a guest than your competitor, because we know that they are splitting their wallet in the market. The objective is not to get them to spend more, just spend more of what they have already budgeted with you.”

Carcamo is convinced that slot influencers are “a permanent piece of the marketing puzzle right now”. She has also observed some properties starting to build influencer programs internally.

“A lot of properties will find they have team members that already have a nice little audience,” she said. “Sometimes they can serve as influencers themselves.”

In addition to appealing to the core casino customer, influencers, Carcamo believes, have the ability to attract new customers as well.

“It’s easy to forget that a casino outing is a social experience,” she said. “As such, an influencer can be virtually, perhaps even vicariously, part of your group. The core customer really likes to celebrate wins with them, albeit virtually, but especially so when it happens in the live environment.”

Lastly, Carcamo stresses the importance of slot influencers “keeping it real”, meaning that along with the wins they celebrate there also has to be some losing.

“And that’s what we want, right?” she asks. “That’s life playing in a casino. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I think as a marketer, as a brand, you want somebody that’s going to have a realistic view, because the last thing you want is an influencer who just shows big wins. That’s not reality.”