Making the Lottery Arkansas' Own: Part 2 (Craig Douglass On Marketing)

“Only in Arkansas.” That’s the theme of one of the state’s larger banking enterprises headquartered in Searcy. The “only” theme also appears in marketing messages for two Arkansas Scholarship Lottery games, the Natural State Jackpot and Arkansas 50/50. Have you heard of or played these games?

Product exclusivity does not a brand make. While we applaud the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery for developing these Arkansas-only games, we would like to suggest these games seem to be lost in the transaction-focused marketing approach of the lottery. Simply put, the marketing strategy only promotes transactions at retail, rather than establishing an emotional connection between the lottery and the consumer — brand equity based on a memorable consumer experience.

Available lottery research suggests players and potential players (and those who once played but no longer do) want to believe the lottery is “for people like me.” That strategy would cast a pretty wide net. So how could Arkansas consumers be made to feel more connected to the lottery? Here are just three ideas.

Let’s start with the most salient lottery game: Powerball. The recent super jackpot of $448 million once again captured the attention of the nation, and was not lost on Arkansas consumers. Large Powerball jackpots drive incremental sales throughout the country. With the advent of these jackpots, due primarily to the refreshing of Powerball in January 2012, changing the ticket price from $1 to $2, sales have increased 52 percent.

As casual players, lapsed players and non-players flock to local convenience stores to buy Powerball tickets during these mega-jackpot events, we believe it just might be a good idea to roll out local co-branding games promoted side by side and packaged with Powerball, encouraging consumers to buy a specially priced scratch-off card while they are in the store buying Powerball. This strategy would encourage consumer trial at Arkansas venues on regular instant games, or local draw games like the Natural State Jackpot and the planned Million Dollar Raffle, providing greater incentive and opportunity to win “for people like me.”

But huge Powerball jackpots don’t happen every day. Instant scratch-off games, however, do. And there are currently 64 different scratch-off games available from Arkansas’ lottery, a vast majority of which are offered in other states as well.

Because of the popularity of these games among traditional players, and the frequency with which they change, another idea is to brand all or a number of the most popular games and promote them as a single entity with the advantage of variety and excitement of play.

Branding instant games as a single category of lottery games — as opposed to draw games — would allow more efficient advertising of scratch-offs and provide the sales and marketing folks at the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery a tool to align the games with Arkansas consumers. This would include games that position themselves and the lottery with such things as seasonal sports like the Razorbacks, Red Wolves, Bears and other teams. Arkansas football-themed games, as one example, should have a universal appeal, encouraging casual players or nonplayers to participate. After all, it’s the lottery that is increasing enrollment at Arkansas’ colleges and universities. Just a thought.

Greater public relations efforts are a must to build an Arkansas lottery brand. And digital media can play an important part. For instance, at the C-store I frequent, there are two banners outside letting consumers know winning tickets of $10,000 and $50,000 were sold there (kudos to the lottery sales team for this merchandising). Seems to us that to drive traffic, consumers could be encouraged to sign up for texts or Twitter notices when specific stores have sold a major winning ticket. This would be in addition to new releases the lottery routinely sends out announcing winners.

The lottery needs a brand platform and internal brand standards to govern all research, development and promotion. In order to engage consumers, connect with them and grow sales, consumers can be made a part of the lottery experience as Arkansas’ own.

Craig Douglass is a Little Rock advertising agency owner and marketing and research consultant. He is president of Craig Douglass Communications Inc.