Renaming Revel: Does It Actually Matter What Glenn Straub Calls A.C.’s Notoriously Troubled Casino?

We talked with experts in branding and casino management about the future of Revel — and what makes a good casino name.

Photo | Dan McQuade

Photo | Dan McQuade

The video is professional. Beach shots are interspersed with close-ups of Revel, the $2 billion failed casino experiment at the north end of Atlantic City’s boardwalk. It’s a rebranding video: The new name for Revel will be Lacuna.

But it’s not official. It’s essentially fan fiction. The “Lacuna Beach Resort and Casino” is an attempt to attract the attention of Revel owner Glenn Straub. Last week while watching presentations from Columbia University architecture students about the future of Revel, Straub promised $10,000 to whoever comes up with a new name for the casino. Entrepreneurs, like the people behind Lacuna, have already set up Facebook pages in an attempt to win Straub’s attention (and, presumably, $10,000).

It’s unclear if Straub will make good on his $10,000 boast, though he told the Inquirer’s Amy Rosenberg those with new names should email him at [email protected]. He said last week the casino would partially open in some form on June 15th, even though he doesn’t yet have a name.

But what makes a good brand name? Revel wasn’t bad, as the casino still continues to attract attention 21 months after it went kaput.

“What you do is you make up a brand name and then you make up what it means,” Wharton marketing professor Barbara Kahn, director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center, tells Philadelphia magazine. “It has to be memorable. If it’s not memorable, you have to make it memorable.” Kahn references Aflac and Geico, originally acronyms, that were made memorable brands by their ad campaigns.

Kahn also says that, for a tourist destination like a casino, you don’t want the brand name to mean something in another language. While the story about the Chevy Nova not selling well in Mexico because it means “don’t go” is an urban legend, it is true that Coca-Cola translated into Chinese is “bite the wax tadpole.”

Jane Bokunewicz knows what it’s like to rebrand a casino. The Stockton University Assistant Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management Studies worked for decades in the casino industry and was at Tropicana when the casino made its ill-fated brand switch into TropWorld.

“We gave up a brand that we had established,” Bokunewicz says. “Tropicana had a very well established brand in the casino industry. And when we switched to TropWorld, everyone thought we were TrumpWorld. It was kind of a marketing disaster. And we ended up changing it back to Tropicana.”

At the time, the Trop’s owners were attempting to make the casino a more family-friendly destination. The name change was meant to signify that; the casino went as far as installing an indoor amusement park to attract families. It didn’t work. She stayed at Revel during its brief existence, and said it suffered from branding issues as well.

“They definitely had some branding issues, but I don’t know if it was related to the name so much,” she says. “They were trying too hard not to be a casino, and yet they had a casino. It was very confusing, I think.” Revel made some curious decisions: The casino banned smoking, didn’t allow bus drop-offs and didn’t have a buffet when it opened. Those are things most gamblers expect in their casinos. Eventually, its owners reversed course; the name was even altered to Revel Casino Hotel instead of just Revel.

As for the $10,000 offer for the best name, Kahn says it could actually work. Why not, she says? “A lot of ad strategies nowadays are word of mouth,” she says. “But to the degree that he is getting the crowd interested, as a gimmicky strategy, it’s not a bad idea. Whether or not it will yield the best brand name is another issue.”

The name, though, may not matter that much. “From my observation and experiences, most casinos when they’re focusing on branding, they’re not so much focusing on the name as everything else,” Bokunewicz says. “Even look at Borgata. What does that name even mean? And they’re the most successful casino in Atlantic City.”

Kahn agrees: “Really, the key is the marketing strategy that’s behind the brand.”

So it may not matter if Straub names his casino Lacuna or Polo North (which he sometimes calls it) or, my favorite suggestion, Florida Man Presents the Glass House of Mysteries. What will matter is what he does with that name, and how he presents it to the public. But that offer sure is enticing. Maybe send him an email with your best suggestion, and you could end up $10,000 richer.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.