Marketing Lessons From Las Vegas: Hit The Jackpot With Boomers

Da best kinda advertising: woid of mout’

In 2015, some 42 million people visited Las Vegas; over 15 million were aged fifty-plus.

Las Vegas Visitors 1970-2015_Desert sceneThe city’s popularity as a destination has soared since 1970 when those Boomers first came to play; the visitor count was 6.8 million that year.

There was plenty of open desert along the Strip back then. Most of the empty space between casinos was home to tumbleweed, blowing sand, dust and drab low-rise strip malls.

Even so, ’70s Vegas was way more colorful than today’s formulaic corporate glitz.

Elvis_Caesars PalaceLegendary billionaire recluse Howard Hughes lived on the top floor of the Desert Inn, a James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever, starring Sean Connery – the Boomers’ real 007 – was shot downtown, Elvis headlined at the International and Sinatra’s Rat Pack had the run of the place.

For added – and unique – color, Vegas was reputed to be a well-organized family town … organized, family about covers it. Capiche?

This was the way things were when your humble scribe’s first employer, the biggest ad agency in LA, decided to pitch the account of a major Las Vegas casino.

The agency president and his team arrived around noon and were ushered into the main man’s office where, behind the desk, a pair of trousers hung over the back of a leather chair. When the head honcho arrived, wearing a silk robe above black socks – no pants, no shoes – he looked at the assembled LA suits with disdain.

“Who dese guys?”

A nervous sidekick explained they were here to ask for the casino’s advertising business: “Y’know da best kinda advertising? Woid of mout’ – get ’em outa here.”

Luckily, in those days, traffic was light – McCarran Field was only ten minutes away. The LA suits made it in less than four.

Las Vegas has come a long way since then. And give credit to those visionary wiseguys of the forties, fifties and sixties. Without them, it might still be just a lonely desert pit-stop on the long, long drive from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. Instead, since 1970 the city has evolved in ways its founders could scarcely have imagined.

  • Fabulous Las VegasPopulation: 1970 277,230 ♠ 2013 2,027,828
  • Visitors: 1970 6.8 million ♠ 2015 42.3 million
  • Hotel/motel rooms: 1970 25,430 ♠ 2015 149,213
  • Conventions: 1970 296 ♠ 2015 21,306
  • Air arrivals: 1970 4.1 million ♠ 2015 45.4 million
  • Gambling revenues: 1970 $369M ♠ 2015 $9.6B
  • (Data: Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority)

Las Vegas hits the jackpot with Boomers

Pretty much everyone who gambles has a sure-fire system for beating the odds. There’s a “lucky” slot machine out there somewhere. Pile your chips on black. Or red. Whatever.
Madison Avenue Casino 1970 RulesThe Madison Avenue Casino operates much the same way. Its sure-fire 1970-era system still tells brands today to put all their money on the 18-49 demo – don’t waste it on Boomers!

It’s like playing roulette where bets are not allowed on half the wheel – with the most profitable numbers off limits.

In fact, brands can learn much from Vegas about winning in the real world – starting with a 3,600 respondent survey (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Visitor Profile, 2014). 

Las Vegas visitors percent _ expenditures 2010-2014Superficially, in 2014 the case for the under-fifty crowd looked strong: only 36% of visitors were Boomer-Plus (over 50), 37% were Gen X and 27% were Millennials.

But what smart analysis ever stopped at the surface?

Drilling down, Boomer-Plus visitors are actually the most valuable: they visit more often and stay longer. Over the 5-year period 2010-2014 they accounted for almost half (47%) of all visitor expenditures.

Jackpot!

Jackpot winnerFull disclosure: the study draws a discreet veil over how much each generation “spent” on gambling. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But total per capita spending by Boomer-Plus on lodging, food, drink, entertainment, shopping and local transportation for 2010 through 2014 is awesome:

  • Seniors:  $5,600 … Index vs. all-visitor average: 106
  • Boomers: $7,000 … Index vs. all-visitor average: 134
  • Gen X: $4,900 … Index vs. all-visitor average: 93
  • Millennials: $3,700 … Index vs. all-visitor average: 71

Bottom line: people over fifty contribute about half of all Las Vegas visitor revenue. No coincidence, that is the same share of revenue they account for in practically all grown-up product categories – cars to CPGs to consumer electronics.

The disruptive lesson for all brands and advertisers is to drop 1970s thinking and take the 50+ demographic seriously. It’s good business and it’s a smart play.

We can help you place your bets – and, yes, we do have a sure-fire winning system.

Opportunity_Fabulous Las Vegas

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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