Happening in Vegas
When you hear someone mention Las Vegas, what comes to
mind? Sin City? Wholesome entertainment for the entire family? An indulgent luxury vacation? Or perhaps a value-oriented reward for hard-working Americans? If you answered “all of the above,” you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. The truth: All of these have been characteristics associated with Las Vegas over the years. In recent times, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) fielded several national ad campaigns. Tourism is Vegas’s biggest industry, and the LVCVA is charged with maintaining the city’s brand image and keeping visitors coming to one of the world’s most famous cities.
Although the positioning of the Vegas brand has changed from time to time, the town will probably never entirely lose the “Sin City” label. That title was born when Las Vegas was young—an anything-goes gambling town full of smoke-filled casinos, bawdy all-girl revues, all-you-can-eat buffets, Elvis impersonators, and nowait weddings on the Vegas Strip. This was the Vegas epitomized
by the Rat Pack, when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and the rest of the crew appeared nightly on stage to standingroom- only crowds at the Sands Hotel. Sinatra was even known for
referring to anywhere that wasn’t Las Vegas as “dullsville.” But as the 1990s rolled around, many Las Vegas officials felt that the town needed to broaden its target audience. So they set out to appeal to—of all things—families. Some of the biggest casinos on the Las Vegas Strip built roller coasters and other thrill rides, worldclass water parks, and family-friendly shows like Treasure Island’s live-action swashbuckler spectacle, visible to everyone passing by on the street. Although this strategy seemed effective for a brief time, marketers came to realize that the family image just didn’t sync well with the classic vices that were still alive and well in Vegas. As the LVCVA started to consider its options, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, dealt Las Vegas tourism one of its
worst blows ever. Declining tourism led to 15,000 lost jobs. The LVCVA decided that it was time to unabashedly proclaim that Las Vegas was a destination for adults. That didn’t just mean a return to the classic vices. The LVCVA engineered an image of Vegas as a luxury destination oozing with excess and indulgence. The theme parks were replaced by five-star resorts, high-rise condos, expansive shopping malls filled with the world’s top luxury brands, and restaurants bearing the names of world-renowned chefs. A new breed of expensive stage shows for adult audiences replaced familyfriendly entertainment. This change of strategy worked. Even
as Las Vegas struggled through economic recovery in the post 9-11 world, visitors returned in record numbers.
However, to Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, it soon became apparent that the town was much more than just an assortment of facilities and amenities. “We talked to old customers and new customers to determine the essence of the brand of Las Vegas,” he said. The LVCVA found that to the nearly 40 million who
flocked to the city each year, Vegas is an emotional connection— a total brand experience.
And just what is the “Las Vegas experience”? Research showed that when people come to Las Vegas, they’re a little naughtier— a little less inhibited. They stay out longer, eat more, do some gambling, and spend more on shopping and dining. “We found that
[the Las Vegas experience] centered on adult freedom,” says Ralenkotter. “People could stay up all night and do things they wouldn’t normally do in their own towns.”
Based on these customer insights, the LVCVA coined the nowfamiliar catchphrase—”Only Vegas: What happens here, stays here.” The phrase captured the essence of the Las Vegas experience— that it’s okay to be a little naughty in Vegas. That simple phrase became the centerpiece of what is now deemed one of the most