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Full tilts new marketing campaign

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Full tilts new marketing campaign

Post by jock2007 on Sun Nov 02, 2014 2:19 am

Full tilts new marketing campaign

Ever since Full Tilt was acquired by PokerStars’ parent company, The Rational Group, as part of the deal they brokered with the US Department of Justice in November 2012, it has failed to meet the expectations of the poker world in regards to its success.

Before Black Friday, Full Tilt was comfortably the second biggest poker site in the world, and while its image was badly damaged following the issues following Black Friday, it was far from mortally wounded. However, since its return under new ownership, Full Tilt has failed to even maintain a reasonable player base and has now slipped down to fifth in PokerScout’s rankings with only a seven-day player average of 1,500 cash game players. PokerStars, on the other hand, has a seven-day average of 18,500 cash game players, more than ten times the number of players on Full Tilt. The question to ask seems to be, how can these two sites, both of which have top notch software packages, and are owned by the same company have such different results. The answer has to be the differing marketing strategies, one that works, and one that seems to have missed the mark.

PokerStars and Full Tilt may be owned by the same company, but the crossover between the two seems to be fairly minimal. Each has their own marketing and press teams, and the policy seems to be to hold both as separate entities. This has led to majorly differing policies and strategies in how to operate and promote the sites.

PokerStars has continued with its tried and tested plan of using their TV and streaming presence to attract new players, and they also added non-poker personalities such as Rafa Nadal and Ronaldo to their sponsored player books. I’ve spent more than enough time discussing why I think these two are a great addition to the PokerStars team in other articles. Please click the link to have a look at my views, but the cliff notes are that they attract people from outside the current player pool to the game.

Full Tilt on the other hand, went back to using their tried and tested model of high stakes pros as the face of the site. They launched with Gus Hansen, Viktor “Isildur1″ Blom and Tom “durrrr” Dwan as the three faces of Full Tilt. With these three megastars of poker, you would have thought they would be placed into marketing promotions that would highlight their skills and legends. What actually happened was they were used ineffectively in some subpar attempts to market the site. From the promotion where players could win free money after being picked out of a hat to play one of the professionals heads-up, or the promotion where the Full Tilt professionals played PokerStars Team Pro members in a heads-up competition, nothing has attracted the players back to Full Tilt.

To me, the promotions from Full Tilt have been “cookie cutter” promotions that have been run elsewhere in the past. I’ve not seen much that is innovative or creative in the way of marketing the site. The idea to let players win a contract was a good idea, but the application of that idea left a lot to be desired. The winning players were not required to do interviews, or even provide a picture of themselves for the site. Full Tilt gained effectively nothing from handing out a bunch of 6 month long sponsored player contracts to players that quickly returned to the internet shadows they came from.

Not that everything Full Tilt has done since its return has been poor. The return of the Black Card level of reward was pretty well received by all involved, and the change to the reward system to work as Rakeback for everyone leveled the playing field. No longer would the way someone registered for the site determine their profitability, which is a much fairer way to do business.

That leads me on to the new marketing strategy:

The new adverts are, as you would expect from Full Tilt, of the highest quality. They rival the most expensive adverts on TV today, and I can’t fault the premise or execution of the product. The new campaign is meant to focus on the players’ own stories rather than that of a professional. In the press release from Full Tilt, it was put as :
“Some of the most interesting stories are created or told at Full Tilt. Being able to share these stories and the intrinsic enjoyment of playing games such as poker, casino or slots is key to the new Full Tilt brand.
“Going forward, the Full Tilt product, marketing and branding will focus very much on sharing the experiences of players.”

So it seems that not only are The Professionals out, so is poker as the main focus of the site’s future, even though both of the new adverts exclusively use poker as the focus of the action. The move to using players as the focus could work well, but that really depends on how the campaign is handled. Random stories about Player X winning and losing are unlikely to attract many to play at the site, but if the story away from the table is engaging enough, it may just work. This could involve showing how the games at Full Tilt factor into a player’s life, how winning a poker tournament resulted in a new car, or how a great run at the blackjack tables saw a family go on their first holiday in years. A campaign like that needs something that potential customers can relate to. If you want Joe Public to be the focus of your marketing campaign, you need to make your Joe Public likeable, real, and engaging, or it’s just not going to work.
The other route that could work, while still focusing on new players playing a wide range of games, is find someone like Rafa Nadal to be Joe Public plus. By this, I mean a Rafa substitute coming to new games, learning them, and obviously enjoying themselves immensely. While the TV campaign may not be as strong, the social media and word of mouth impact would be massively improved.

Could someone like Rafa Nadal save Full Tilt?
By having a known personality from another field as the face of Full Tilt, the site would automatically gain some of the respect and approval that personality has with their fans. It’s an old marketing technique, using a famous person to endorse your product, but it’s still used because it still works. Just look at the next advert break during a mainstream TV show. How many of the adverts use otherwise famous people to promote or endorse the product? I’ll take a stab in the dark at around 50% of the ads fall into this category. So why is this obviously highly successful strategy not used more in this industry?

Cost is going to be a factor, but so is the sometimes toxic reputation of the gambling industry. In many circles, gamblers are universally thought of as degenerate, shady people, who are all addicted to games of chance. While that stereotype does exist, most people who play these games are just normal people who enjoy the excitement of taking small risks at the tables. This perception of the industry is still very common, and some celebrities rightfully think that being sponsored by a gambling brand would hurt their chances of picking up work as well as other sponsors. Still, as the signing of Rafa and Ronaldo shows, there are still those out there that want to take the step towards the tables.

If I was sitting in Full Tilt Towers, I’d be scouring the planet to find one of these people, because I really don’t see this new direction having a majorly positive impact on the profitability and volume of games on Full Tilt. I could be wrong, and only time will tell how this decision is going to pan out, but I don’t see this spin of the wheel changing Full Tilt’s fortunes.

Nevada’s current online poker operators are going to have quite a bit of company in the near future, as no less than three new online poker sites are expected to launch within the next year.
In the coming months 888 and Treasure Island (TI) are expected to join forces with and form the All American Poker Network in Nevada, as they battle against the two other current operators, Ultimate Poker and Real Gaming, for market share.
The third site expected to launch is more of a wildcard, HDPoker.
This impending expansion (the addition of 888, TI, and HDPoker) will double the number of operators in Nevada’s online poker market, creating a very crowded and hyper-competitive space.
However, in competitive markets it’s oftentimes the disruptors and the innovators who emerge victorious, which is why it may be HDPoker that makes the most waves in Nevada in 2015.

The History of HDPoker

HDPoker is an online poker platform designed by Z4 Poker – a sister company of Bingo & Keno provider Gaming Arts. HDPoker’s platform will serve as the online poker room for the Siena Hotel Spa Casino in Reno.
The Siena Hotel Spa Casino received approval for licensure as an interactive gaming operator in Nevada, and Z4 has been approved as a manufacturer and distributor of interactive gaming systems and as an interactive gaming service provider.‏
Regulatory wise HDPoker and Z4 are ready to go. Now it’s simply a matter of getting their product launched.
Z4 Poker was formed two years ago by Eric Colvin, who along with his father David Colvin, own Siena Hotel Spa Casino.
Seeing an opportunity to innovate in an industry he felt had grown stagnant, Colvin created Z4 Poker in the wake of Nevada’s online poker expansion in 2011.
HDPoker’s Matt Kaufman shares Colvin’s point of view, feeling the current online poker industry has grown stagnant, and failed to continue to keep up with the technology available: “Online poker software was far behind other types of games in terms of quality.” Kaufman continued on, saying, Colvin’s vision was for HDPoker to fill this perceived void with a “poker platform that made use of the technology and visual advancements that have been seen in video games but for some reason simply haven’t entered the online poker world.”

HDPoker adapts to the zeitgeist

HDPoker’s debut has been delayed due to the ever-changing gaming market, from the rise of mobile gaming to the onset of social gaming, and what began as an attempt to disrupt and reinvigorate online poker software (a daunting task in its own right) morphed into something far grander.
“In the two years that we’ve been building, the success of social games took off and was impossible to ignore,” Eric Colvin explained.
With social gaming shaking up the gaming industry, Colvin decided to expand the project midstream and incorporate more features into his software. “We began simultaneously developing play money and real money features within our client,” Colvin stated.
“The two target audiences have different preferences when it comes to software, and we cater separately to each group, Kaufman added. “Today, HDPoker is a fully cross-platform social poker app, available on iOS, Android, Facebook, Desktop, and Mac.‏”
Despite the reinvention of HDPoker as a cross-platform product, two years after he initially conceived the idea, Colvin’s vision is about to become a reality, as HDPoker is in the final stages of production and prepping for their beta launch, which is expected to occur in the coming weeks – you can sign up for the beta rollout at
Following the beta launch the company has plans for a full social rollout in December 2014, followed by a mobile (iOS and Android) launch in Q1 of 2015, and finally their real-money launch in Nevada, which they anticipate happening anywhere from six months to a year from now.
“The product that we started from scratch here in Las Vegas is very close to complete,” Kaufman said. “I think our game truly does look and feel modern in the way that Eric imagined it to begin with.‏”

A look at HDPoker

I had the opportunity to sample HDPoker at G2E and I was very impressed with the functionality and look of the product.
HDPoker is definitely not your father’s online poker software, as you can see below:
The “Saloon” is just one of 50 themes available.
Avatars feature incredible graphics and are highly customizable.
Unlike other platforms, HDPoker was designed from the start to function equally well on mobile devices and desktops: “Most operators don’t have mobile products at all, and the ones that do mostly took an existing downloadable desktop client and then had to shoehorn features into mobile versions,” Kaufman explained. “HDPoker was developed to be a cross-platform experience from day one.”
At launch, HDPoker will be available for iOS, Android, Facebook, Desktop and Mac. As Kaufman pointed out, “The only devices that can’t play on HDPoker are pretty much really old ones. Any reasonably modern device with any screen size and you’re good to go‏.”
HDPoker was designed so you could multi-table on your mobile devices. What this means for players is the ability to tile up to four tables on a tablet, or use the side-sweep option to multi-table on your smart phone (HDPoker has separate platforms for mobile and tablets) without running into formatting or space issues.
HDPoker is also aesthetically pleasing, “Visually, the game is very high quality 2D. We have about 50 detailed table themes, and tons of customizable avatars,” Kaufman indicated. “The avatars fall into 2 categories – ‘special’ ones which can’t be changed and our standard ones which are extremely customizable. You can change their faces, hair and hair color, clothing, and accessories – there are millions of possible combinations.”
As of writing, the only game available on HDPoker is No-Limit Texas Hold’em, but Colvin is confident more games will be available when they launch for real money: “In addition to No Limit Texas Hold’em, we’ll have at least Limit Hold’em, Omaha 8 or Better, and Pot-Limit Omaha ready before real money launch.‏”
Colvin doesn’t anticipate hitting any regulatory hurdles either: “One of the biggest differentiators between us and our competitors is that our backend architecture is extremely scalable and real-money ready,” Colvin stated. “So when we submit our software for real money approval we don’t believe we’ll need to make any significant changes.”
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