Eman Pulis met up with Mikael Strunge of Anna Casino for a talk about his female focused casino, product development and marketing to a clear segment within the gaming industry.
Recently I checked in at Tivoli Hotel in Copenhagen and met with the Danish wing of Power Media Group, an organization that has established itself quite heavily in the gaming industry over the last couple of years. Power Media Group is originally a classic media company/agency, focusing on tailoring marketing plans for a wide variety of customers and I am positively surprised to hear that the agency part of the company actually have over 200 active clients in their portfolio at the time of my visit.
Before we get into specifics I can’t help but ask about the geographical challenges that Anna Casino might have, seeing that the operations is based in Malta while Mikael has his base in Copenhagen. “Eero Villikka, our Affiliate Director, have years of experience in the industry and has a form of COO role at the Malta office, to ensure that the day-to-day work is managed in a good way. Besides that, we are blessed with extremely talented and motivated staff members, which really limit the geographical inconvenience to verbal communication, which has to be conducted over the phone. The current structure is working so well that the need for my presence at the Anna Casino office is limited to a quarterly trip and when I am there it is pretty much business as usual despite for a few extra group meetings with the team”.
I want to dig deeper into the reasoning for targeting a casino towards women and it quickly becomes clear that it might not be the first time that Mikael has been asked this this question as the reply comes promptly:
“It is really quite simple. A large amount of operators in the industry integrate several products into their brands and since some of these are heavily dominated by the male audience, they can’t really target the product towards the female segment of the industry. For a long time this spot in the industry has been largely dominated by bingo operators with only a few soft focused casino operators. We felt that there was certainly room for a brand like Anna Casino in the market.”
But has Anna Casino has been a success so far?
“Yes. The birth of a gaming operation is always tricky since the small player base, the large bonus costs and the continuous re-tweaking of your product dominates and creates swings in results during the early phase. But we have exceeded our player acquisition and activity budgets and we have proceeded with parts of our business plan, which was supposed to be launched during 2016. Overall we are well satisfied with the development of the product.”
I noticed that Anna Casino recently dipped their toes into the realm of TV advertising and asks if that part of the marketing plan is amongst the things that got pushed from 2016 to 2015. “Yes, we felt from the start that the brand and the virtues that we wanted to communicate to our customers was well suited for the TV media and we got some great offers to start up small on TV and we are planning on expanding on that effort over the course of the next six months.”
Why did you feel that the Anna Casino brand was so suitable for TV?
“Marketing towards women really has a lot to do with emotions and TV is just the best outlet for creating brand awareness based on emotional triggers. Our first TV campaign has a quite clear focus on the difference between men and women by portraying the typical angry man watching his team lose a football game in the last minute, while the woman is enjoying her gaming experience in a cozy manner. The difference between why men and women gamble come to show in the commercial and our goal is to make the difference clear and create a humorous emotional response to that difference”
Aren’t you afraid of alienating potential male customers with this approach?
“It was indeed a concern of ours since we want to be welcoming to everyone but at the end of the day we created a setting where we hope that the males watching can have a bit of a laugh recognizing themselves in the role of the sore loser. We are also quite aware of the fact that you can’t go down the emotional path if you want to hit a wide audience. Emotional triggers only work if they are clearly directed at specific segments.”
I felt like a natural follow up question was to ask if Anna Casino’s player base is then totally dominated by women. “No, we do still have a large pool of male players and that will probably never change but we definitely have a much higher percentage of female players than the average online casino.” Do you feel like you needed to build up Anna Casino in a different way than other casinos in order to service your target audience?
“I wouldn’t say that Anna Casino is build up in a different way than other online casino products but we definitely put an emphasis on elements that other operators might sacrifice to achieve other goals. The most obvious example of this in practice is the matter of simplicity. We see quite a few casino operators creating a journey or path for the customer. By being active in a specific way the customer can achieve a certain set of goals, which grants the customer bonuses, free spins, custom wheel of fortune spins or similar types of rewards. These elements are great marketing and retention tools but they add a level of complexity to a casino, which increase the level of involvement needed from the customer. We have constructed Anna Casino with the clear purpose of creating a gaming environment that is as easy to use as possible.
Being a regular customer at Anna Casino, you can access your favourite game in a matter of seconds and we had a clear “no scroll” mantra, when we designed the casino. Unless you want to dig deep into the game portfolio, you will never have the need to use your scroll wheel at all. The simplicity level also shines through in our retention where we focus on promotions that are simple, to the point and easy to understand. This focus obviously have to do with the
fact that we are targeting a segment within the industry that has a more casual approach to gambling.” He went on to elaborate, “Only recently, Eskallio, a player from Anna Casino, registered a big win of €15995 in Dead or alive!”
Speaking of product build up and development, what is your take on all the new innovations being brought into the online casino industry? “I naturally think they are great. Our industry have the benefit of all costs lying in developing interesting features. It doesn’t cost the operator much, if anything, to switch on a new cool game or add a new feature to the gaming portfolio or retention effort which creates flexibility compared to a live casino operation where a sizeable investment is needed in order to expand or renew the games on offer. This fact gives the online industry a flexibility that sparks growth and innovation on a different level and I see no reason why the online casino market shouldn’t keep pulling away from the heavier live operations in terms of continuous innovation.”
I had planned more questions for Mikael but our time was running out. I had the pleasure of having dinner with Mikael and the rest of the Power Media Group management team in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district later that evening and I am definitely planning another visit to Copenhagen within the foreseeable future.
I will be meeting Mikael again in a few weeks in London for a seminar at ICE Totally Gaming where he’ll be one of the guest speakers. The panel discussion is entitled, “Niche vs. Mainstream Operators”. The session synopsis is as follows: besides the obvious language and territorial segmentation, should new operators focus on other niches? In this session case studies will be provided on how successful operators have managed to find a niche in the market.
The moderator for this seminar is Mr. Zoltan Tundik, CEO, East European Gaming. The lineup of speakers include Mr. Mikael Strunge himself, CEO, Anna Casino; Dr. Angelo Dalli, CEO, Bit8; Mrs. Efrat Judovits, Former director of business development, Playtech; Mr. Shai Ben Ami, CEO, Lottonetix; Mr. Shay Benhamou, CEO, Airsoft; and Mr. Ran Cohen, CEO, Traders Education.
Look forward to a fruitful discussion in London.