Catching Up with MGM Resorts

By : Chelsea Brennan


We caught up with Derek Schoen, VP Paid Media Investment & Social Strategy at MGM Resorts International during Digital Travel Summit.

In this interview, Client Partner, Chelsea Brennan, sits down with Schoen to answer some of our burning industry questions. 

Derek, it’s great to see you again! You oversee paid media and organic social strategy at MGM. That means multiple brands need to show up across multiple platforms in a meaningful way. How do you ensure each brand story stays consistent?
At the end of the day, there are two really important factors to content creation: audience and brand. From an audience perspective, we have to break it down to which parts are important to our target consumers — passion points and interesting stories. Our goal is to take those important story elements and to bring them to life in creative and copy so that we can build lasting relationships. Those are the hooks that get a consumer really interested in what you can do for them and it’s about understanding the audience and making sure it’s aligned with what customers want and then using visuals to pair with voice, all based on data.

Knowing the hospitality space is a competitive one, how does MGM strive to stand out?
The competitive advantage is definitely our “yes” mentality towards the customer. No matter how big or small the issue you’re having, we want to make sure it’s resolved. MGM has the best amenities to deliver on our promises. We look to bring amenities to life in a supplemental way remembering entertainment is unique to every individual. 

Three years from now, what’s a social trend you predict we’ll see in the travel space?
“Is intelligent creative too on the nose?” Smart, scalable creative is something brands will quickly realize they need to pivot into. Why? Because consumers are getting smarter. And as a brand, you can’t get lost in the sea of sameness. Intelligent creative takes the guesswork out of it all. We can use analytics to understand the baseline of how we can get 80% there from a performance perspective and play with the other 20% to get the destination.

What are some online travel trends that surprise you?
One that doesn’t necessarily surprise me, but it’s unexpected that it happened so quickly, is moving away from OTAs and the shared stay economy because people are prioritizing loyalty and consistent quality. This has given us the power to gain control and help these customers again. This makes us want to invest more in upper and mid funnel tactics. Loyalty will be huge in the cookie-less future.

How is the way MGM evaluates campaign success evolving?
We realize that because of the changes to technology and privacy, last touch measurement isn’t viable for much longer. We’re looking to evolve revenue-based campaigns in general and we’re also looking to understand impact and sequence in those instances.

How would you describe the role of data in your approach to social strategy?
Data is everything. Data allows us to know what to talk about, how to talk about it and when to talk about it. At the end of the day, it’s what drives our content and how everything works together. It also helps us determine how audiences react. For the longest time, you had to have the right creatives to do it, but when you bring the data and the brand together – that’s when the magic happens. 

What are your thoughts about marketing in a down economy?
Digital and paid advertising is perfectly placed for a downturn because at the end of the day, you should be testing and trying everything you can get your hands on while business is good. That’s how you see what works and you can have those tactics ready when times get tight. Your findings have a lasting impact, so you can come out of the downturn on top. “Take out all of the fat and go straight towards the meat once the downturn starts.” Channel, budget, targeting is only part of it. Creative is a huge key to drive that performance and you have to know what works when budgets are getting cut for the sake of your plans and your business.

For more candid conversations with various clients and partners, check out our full Pop In series.