Whether it be through increased responsible gambling measures, investing in social projects or greater transparency with stakeholders, iGaming has made tremendous reputational progress in recent years.
Nevertheless, many industry commentators believe that the very nature of the gaming industry means that it’s highly unlikely to ever completely shake off controversy and stigma.
So we thought it timely to speak with Magnus Hakansson, CEO at Commetric, to gauge his views on whether iGaming is fighting a losing battle when it comes to moving the dial of public opinion to the positive, and, if not: How can we use reputation-management to our benefit, while pushing the greater gambling industry forward at the same time?
iGaming has always been a controversial issue in regard to public opinion. Some industry commentators argue that, due to its inherent nature, the iGaming industry will never be able to significantly improve its image no matter what it does. Do you agree, or do you think there are some key ways its reputation can be improved?
“The iGaming industry’s reputational troubles are most commonly related to excessive, or irresponsible gaming. The most pertinent step in addressing these issues is prioritising ‘Responsible Gaming’ – and taking firm measures to prevent problem gambling.
“Many operators have already started doing this in their marketing efforts. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement. For example, we found that many PR efforts–although they contain nominal messages promoting safe gambling–are essentially more focused on spreading the word about their direct marketing campaigns. This goes to show that most gambling companies treat PR merely as a promotional tool for their brands, rather than as part of their strategy to change consumer behaviour.
“Companies could use PR, beyond publicising their marketing initiatives, and tap into its potential for behavioural change, which in turn would result in a reputational boost. A good place to start would be for companies to contribute to media articles on responsible gambling by providing practical and easy ways for someone to deal with gambling addiction.
“Such messages should be carefully framed and informed by the most recent public health comms research. For example, a recent meta-review of public health campaigns found that gain-framed messages–which focus on attaining a desirable outcome, or avoiding an undesirable outcome– were significantly more likely than loss-framed messages, which focus on attaining an undesirable outcome, or avoiding a desirable outcome.
“Positive, or gain-framed, messages focus on the benefits of making improvements in a particular behaviour; whilst negative, or loss-framed, messages contain information about harmful consequences and hazards related to risky behaviours. The evidence indicates that positive messaging works most effectively when it consists of less abstract messages that include specific actions, such as setting a deposit limit.”
In today’s market, iGaming companies have both a traditional market and a social footprint to manage. Is one more important than the other? How should companies be sharing their resources across the two areas?
“Both a traditional market and a social footprint can be valuable in different ways. A traditional market can provide a stable source of revenue and a proven customer base; while a social footprint can help to build brand awareness and attract new customers.
“While it’s important for iGaming companies to strike a balance between their traditional market and social footprint, we might argue that the social footprint is getting more important because it also benefits the traditional market. Consider the fact that iGamers are getting younger and younger. The Gen Z market is a prominent area of growth as this demographic is now of age to gamble, and so brands can start building brand loyalty amongst this group.
“Esports betters especially are younger than the average gambler in online casinos. The average age of an esports gambler is 21-years-old, so companies have to be very mindful of how they can attract this audience with their marketing campaigns and appeal to their tastes. Consider that Gen Z-ers expect brands to take stands, as more and more of them are starting to understand their purchasing power, not just only in economic terms but also as an enactment of practical ethics. To attract Gen Z; brands must highlight their commitment to social causes, such as diversity and sustainability.”
iGaming is a notoriously saturated and highly competitive market. How can operators use reputation management and analysis to differentiate themselves from the competition?
“Managing reputation in the iGaming industry requires a strategic approach to corporate communications and media relations, which takes into account the changing context of media consumption and the recent trends in strategic communications, such as ESG (Environmental Social Governance) communications.
“One area where operators could use reputation management–and analysis–to stand out is when targeting women, who are an under-serviced and yet ever-growing segment. More than 4.6 million women joined sports betting apps in the US last year alone, an increase of 115 percent compared to 2020, according to a report by Global Wireless Solutions. The number of men on sports betting apps still exceeds the number of women by 250 percent. But the growth rate of women customers is nearly double that of men, which is 63 percent.
“In spite of the large female audience in the iGaming industry, the marketing materials often used by major operators would not suggest this. For online casinos and sports betting sites, we see marketing campaigns targeted exclusively at men more than women. Breaking the predominant sports betting demographic of young white “frat boys” and bringing in more women will be a powerful differentiation factor.
“Corporate reputation can be viewed as the result of the image a company displays to the public, which is the product of the company’s performance and behaviour, and how those components are communicated in the media. Thus, corporate reputation is largely a product of corporate communications, and the media serves as the main arena in which reputation is created, articulated, or damaged.
“As corporate reputation is a product of communications, iGaming companies should use communications analytics and evaluation to measure their progress towards achieving their corporate reputation objectives. This can be done by identifying reputation drivers and evaluating their presence and prominence in target media outlets along with their underlying sentiment.
“Furthermore, they can implement quantitative measures of reputation, for example, by using NPS (Net Promoter Score) logic, calculated as the difference between positive mentions and negative mentions per driver.
“Benchmarking reputation driver performance against competitors can help iGaming companies identify white space in competitor positioning and plan their communications strategies, and ultimately differentiate them from the competition.”
Other taboo industries such as alcohol have been largely successful at managing their public image. What can iGaming learn from this?
“The alcohol industry aims to reposition itself as a champion for moderation and mindful consumption. Take for instance Heineken‘s famous ‘When You Drive, Never Drink’ responsible consumption campaign featuring former Formula 1 World Champions Keke and Nico Rosberg. Part of the insight for the campaign was that the prominence of alcohol-free options made a positive impact on drink-driving behaviour.
“Thus, alcohol companies aim to build an image as brands interested in their customers’ safety – a strategy that is quite different from the usual comms approach in the alcohol sector, which is predominantly product-centred. The alcohol industry has done a good job of establishing a clear and consistent brand image that is associated with responsible consumption. The iGaming sector could learn from this by developing a clear and consistent brand image that is associated with responsible and fair gaming.
“In addition, the alcohol industry has established partnerships with organisations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) to promote responsible consumption. The iGaming sector could replicate this by forming partnerships with organisations that promote responsible gaming, such as Gamblers Anonymous.
“Furthermore, the alcohol industry has implemented responsible marketing practices, such as not targeting marketing efforts towards minors. The iGaming sector could learn from this by implementing similar responsible marketing practices, such as not targeting marketing efforts towards vulnerable populations.”
iGaming companies spend large portions of their budget every year on marketing and communications. How can they best measure their return on investment for this?
“Return on an investment is the ratio of net profit generated by an investment. It is an accountancy concept. In marketing it is often used to refer to incremental sales, as well as profit. Profit-based ROI (also known as ROMI, or payback) can be a useful measure because it allows you to compare the efficiency of different campaigns with different budgets. It also allows you to compare the return from your campaign with the returns from other alternative investments.
“As an industry, marketing has misused ROI, mistaking it for a goal instead of a measure of efficiency. The easiest way to improve an ROI figure is to reduce investment, but this is not a route towards increasing profit.
“Net profit generated is a measure of marketing effectiveness and is the ultimate KPI for marketing and comms personnel. ROMI is a measure of marketing efficiency.
“In terms of marketing effectiveness, recent research has found that marketing effectiveness is heavily influenced by a campaign’s degree of what we call ‘Creative Commitment’, which is a composite measure of the media budget, duration and number of media channels applied to a creative campaign or initiative.
“Creative Commitment correlates very tightly with effectiveness. As Creative Commitment increases, so does effectiveness. In this regard, to increase Creative Commitment, marketeers have three ‘levers’–spend, duration and number of media channels–and pulling any of these levers will give their work an effectiveness advantage.
“Although media spend is one dimension of Creative Commitment, it is not a controlling factor. Even at low budgets, campaigns with longer durations and more media channels are more effective.”
From speaking with Magnus, it’s clear that he’s a strong believer in the unmatched power of reputation management. He’s identified that the iGaming industry’s reputational troubles are most commonly related to excessive or irresponsible gaming. Prioritising this is the key to improvement.
It’s also important to note his telling observations on ROI. It seems that operators often use inaccurate KPIs to measure success.
Magnus has expressed the importance of changing our industry perspective, and the need to start considering alternative factors such as Creative Commitment which correlates very tightly with effectiveness. As Creative Commitment increases, so does effectiveness.
It appears that after many years of the industry struggling to tame the beast of reputation management, companies like Commetric are now finally able to leverage the power of data, through the magic of AI, and allow operators to gain tangible value from reputation management as an effective tool for growth.