I have been following the recent coverage of the casino bid for the city of Toronto with great interest. The opposition didactic is rooted in a dated mythology that does not reflect the facts. Sure there are cities that have casinos that also have social issues and other challenges. But the reality is that the problems usually existed before the casino. Take our own Niagara Falls as an example. What had become seedier and more rundown than the Falls from about 1960 onward? I have been down to the newish Fallsview Casino several times since it opened a decade ago and have been pleasantly surprised by the way the park area and Niagara Falls downtown have been cleaned up. The casino patrons look a lot like my friends and family — in fact we had a family reunion at one of the shows! And look at the activities for families that vie for business cheek by jowl with the casino: a butterfly sanctuary, an aquarium, great golf courses, world-class theatres, wineries, great restaurants and one of the most glorious natural wonders in the world.
The critics’ view of casinos is rooted in a reality that existed — perhaps – for a very few decades from about 1960 through to about 1985. The reality is that Europe has had elegant casinos for centuries and you never hear about social or other problems. In fact, some of our most enduring popular films have been shot in glamorous casino locations on the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
I was reminded of all this last night when I went to a broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera‘s production of Rigoletto. Set in the Las Vegas of the sixties, Tony award-winning Director Michael Mayor had this to say on the MET website: “I tried to imagine a contemporary version of the decadent world of the Duke’s palace – where people are partying and full of a kind of fascination with power and money and beauty – and I thought of Las Vegas.” The opera evokes a louche atmosphere that bears little relationship to the sophistication of modern day Las Vegas.
With more than 30 five star resorts including the Wynn, the Bellagio, the Venetian and Canada’s own Four Seasons, today Las Vegas boasts the very best accommodation, restaurants, entertainment, sporting events and activities, luxury shopping and of course, the mystery of the desert and the wonder of The Grand Canyon on its doorstep – all in addition to casino gaming.
A number of years ago, Las Vegas attempted some rebranding to convince tourists that there is much to do there even without even entering the casinos — good, wholesome family fun activity. Despite the fact that the product is all there, the old image of the place was hard to shake. Then some smart people at the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Association advertising agency, R&R Partners, decided to leverage the existing deep brand equity with the “What Happens here Stays here” campaign. They decided take the “naughty” brand imagery and make it a key selling benefit!
This is how great slogans work — they stand the test of time, moving through and around product innovation and change — to bridge the shifting sands of time, retaining what is good and projecting a halo on new product attributes thereby imbuing them with the enduring brand imagery. Would that Toronto — and for that matter Niagara Falls — could figure this out!