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Steve Wynn Hoping for a Brand Slam

By Rod Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Oct. 13, 2005 - Wynn Resorts Ltd. is doing a lot more than padding its bottom line with the sale of Wynn-branded retail and hotel products, a top executive said this week.

It's betting the house it can turn name recognition into a brand identification that will lure guests and keep them coming back.

At least one marketing expert, however, said trying to brand products based on an individual's identity can be risky in the long run.

When it was first announced, Wynn Las Vegas was to be named Le Reve, after the Pablo Picasso painting that hangs as the centerpiece of the resort's art collection. However, local developer Steve Wynn explained on opening night that the original name was dumped after his marketing consultants said it had no public recognition.

Pollster Frank Luntz, who headed the market research to brand the property, said no other name matched Wynn's for communicating quality products and luxury service to the traveling public.

In focus groups conducted before the renaming, Wynn Las Vegas proved the biggest draw of all the alternatives, Luntz said.

The Wynn name, posted atop the hotel tower and plastered on retail and guest-room products throughout the resort, is now a major draw for both guests and walk-through visitors, said Senior Vice President Terri Monsour, who directs retail operations.

In turn, the items customers take home, from trinkets to luxury products, remind guests of the luxury they can enjoy on a return visit.

The items also give Las Vegas visitors who just walk through the resort a hint of the luxury they can enjoy if they stay at Wynn Las Vegas on their next trip.

The red carpet laid throughout the resort is designed to be an icon that starts guests thinking about all the products bearing the Wynn logo in many of the resort's 31 shops and all of its 2,700 hotel rooms and suites, Monsour said.

The logo itself was the product of New York-based Slover and Co., which has also counted Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci, Donghia Furniture and Textiles and Coach as clients.

The Wynn team also uses the logo for Parasol, the resort's signature nightclub, and the crest for its country club to brand a variety of retail products across a range of prices.

"A lot of these (branded products) work for the guest who wants to scream to the world they were here," Monsour said. "For others, the high-class silver products and leather golf bags remind them of what they enjoyed most when they were here.

"We'll sell millions of dollars worth of souvenirs plus luxury products. The name Wynn is synonymous with luxury and quality, and people like to be associated with anything that high-caliber."

The most popular items have been the beds themselves, Monsour said. King size beds go for $1,500; the bed linens go for $900.

But guests at the hotel-casino can buy almost any item in their rooms, from big-screen plasma televisions to bathroom slippers, all bearing the Wynn brand, she said.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor Bill Thompson, who specializes in gaming studies, said the plan smacks of being a gimmick for rich folks.

"It sort of makes you wonder, when you get rich, do you still need a life?" he said. "But marketing-wise, Wynn knows the value of his name, so he is branding. I don't know if it is any different than having people who drive Fords around with Ford billboards on the rear of their cars."

However, Jim Medick, chief executive officer of MRC Group, Nevada's largest market research company, said there are more complex marketing issues at stake, and only time will tell if Wynn will succeed or bomb.

"Branding works great when you have the inanimate asset," he said. "The trick is when the asset is a living person. Mr. Wynn has taken his personal reputation as a visionary in the hospitality, gaming and entertainment industry and made it the perceived value of same. That means as Mr. Wynn goes, so does the brand."

Wynn's name-brand tactics go counter to those of some other gaming bosses. Kirk Kerkorian of MGM Mirage and Sheldon Adelson at Las Vegas Sands Corp., for example, have made their product the brand, Medick said.

So, can Wynn's strategy work? Absolutely.

Is it easy? Absolutely not, Medick said.

"(Donald) Trump is working overtime separating his name from the gaming industry and keeping the spotlight on his more recent real estate success," he said. "Martha Stewart is working her public relations to separate herself from insider trading."

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To see more of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.lvrj.com.

Copyright (c) 2005, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com. WYNN, SKS, GUCG, COH,

 
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