Betting big to win big: how operators can become stickier in consumers’ minds

Betting big to win big: how operators can become stickier in consumers’ minds

Nick Ward, Head of Creative Strategy at Cubo, shares some of his firm’s research into how the consumer views betting brands.

Online bettors are notoriously promiscuous, with their activity heavily influenced by odds and offers during key sporting events. In this volatile market, brands are investing significant marketing spend into capturing consumer attention, in some cases reinforced by media muscle or high street presence. However, as the market remains cluttered, dynamic and fiercely competitive, finding the best way to be the first choice for betting is easier said than done.

The IPA has shown that brands should aim for fame in their advertising and communications, through a combination of stand-out creativity, emotional resonance and salient branding. However, recent thinking from the likes of Professor Byron Sharp, Dr. Stephen Holden and Baroness Susan Greenfield has begun to show the more deep-rooted, underlying, covert ways brands get stuck in consumers’ heads.

To fully understand what brings certain brands to mind for consumers when they are looking to place a bet, we recently pioneered a research and planning tool, called Headspace. Surveying 500 consumers that had bet online at least once in the previous month, we not only discovered which brands are stealing the bulk of consumers’ headspace but also the cues that brands can tap into to become ‘stickier’, which is key in the battle to become the first choice betting destination.

The cues that made consumers think of online betting were largely needs-based and relatively simple, for example the main reason people bet is to enhance the excitement of the match day experience – whether they are watching live or on TV. However, with only 3% of consumers betting at sports grounds, it was clear that brands need to think carefully about location as much as they do the situation.

Most brands are falling short on all markers

Before they even start to look at specifics like location, brands need to overcome the indifference consumers feel towards the category as a whole.

Consumers typically love the thrill of betting but this thrill doesn’t extend to the brands. Indeed, the research showed that all the brands – even the likes of Paddy Power, Coral and Ladbrokes – have little sway with consumers and aren’t connected to the majority of situations and needs that make consumers think of placing a bet.

The problem is that brands are too focused on what their brand evokes in consumers rather than what needs and situations evoke their brand.

By building frequent links to the various cues through consistent communications, betting brands can reinforce their position in consumers’ minds and, as a result, grow. From Headspace, it seems that the best way to do this is to focus on saliency-orientated creative campaign ideas that fit into bettors’ culture. For example, look at Bet365’s Cash Out campaign with Ray Winston – it may not be the most innovative creative concept, but its clear consistent style has helped the brand punch noticeably above its weight. Conversely, outright showmanship and irreverence were found to be less effective in the short term.

Stand out, but for the right reasons

Of course, there are always exceptions – in the online betting space, the most notable exception is Paddy Power, which is renowned for its loud and proud campaigns. Although still orientated around odds and winnings, Paddy Power takes a more humour-led and controversial approach. Its stable tactics and PR prowess have proved more successful than others in generating fame. But their extreme irreverence does increase the likelihood of a consumer rejecting them – a vast proportion of consumers said they would turn them away from using the brand because it is too loud in its messaging.

The online betting category in general has a big problem with being too sales orientated, with a plethora of ever-changing offers that can often stretch the truth. From a marketing perspective, this results in many brands being overly focused on the short term gains of rational persuasion. However, this focus doesn’t help brands to pilot the autopilot. For those brands looking to stand out from the crowd, there needs to be a dedicated effort towards building an emotional connection with consumers at every touchpoint – from OOH (out of home), adverts and even on their own site. Indeed, the latter is particularly important – the research found that a poorly designed experience puts consumers off, with 73% of respondents saying this to be true. Women and younger consumers are particularly impacted by a poor experience.

Brands need to land emotive connections with consumers, despite excitement and enjoyment sitting at the heart of many of the leading category cues. Headspace shows that there’s a sizable opportunity for all online betting brands, including the leaders, to use their marketing to better influence brand engagement and get stickier in peoples’ minds. As ever, this will undoubtedly involve highly creative communications, but as we have learnt, these should also be grounded in some of the principles of the new wave of marketing theory if they are going to improve their odds of being truly effective.

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