Picture this: On Saturday, Nov. 10, 2001, 20 people gathered beneath the blazing sun in the desolate Nevada desert after months of nerve-wracking preparation. They had no idea where they were going, but they knew just what they had to do. Furnished with a guide and a map, each person set out in an SUV in search of a treasure chest hidden amid the cacti and tumbleweed. The chest contained a cool $1 million.
Sound like a final episode of Survivor? It’s not. It’s Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment’s latest marketing scheme, based on the company’s Total Rewards customer loyalty system (see “Jackpot!” on www.cio.com/printlinks).
To enter the treasure hunt, Total Rewards customers applied credits earned from playing slot machines and video games toward an electronic entry form. (Customers could also request a free entry by mail.) Swiping their Total Rewards card through a designated Total Rewards Treasure Hunt computer on the casino floor linked customers to a system that calculated the number of contest entries for which they were eligible based on their level of play that day. “Over the course of the year, you can generate thousands of entries,” says Tim Stanley, Harrah’s vice president of information technology.
To select the lucky 20 who would participate in the treasure hunt, the corporate IT group wrote a software application that gathered the electronic entries from the casino floor systems and randomly drew one person from each of the 20 properties operated by Harrah’s Entertainment, Stanley says.