Las Vegas marketers were taking a different approach to their brand reputations on Tuesday. Promotional language was hard to find, and appeared to be replaced by messages about the tragedy of Oct. 1 that left 59 gunshot victims dead and more than 500 injured.
Brands themselves were replaced in organic search results.
The usual bright colors and messages of fun times ahead come up when you Google “Las Vegas,” because you immediately see glitzy travel ads and site links on the SERP. But on Tuesday, the entire page was filled with news about the Oct. 1 massacre. It means that today, Las Vegas is synonymous with horror and loss, rather than its marketing message, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.”
In fact, VisitLasVegas.com removed the slogan from below many of its logos on Tuesday and instead provided information on how grieving families could obtain “room assistance” at hotels, how others could provide aid and tweeted with the hashtag #VegasStrong.
— Vegas (@Vegas) October 2, 2017
Similarly, the Route 91 Harvest Festival — the country music concert where the tragedy occurred — filled its entire site with a one-page message of loss.
— Route 91 Harvest (@Route91Harvest) October 3, 2017
But brands beyond those immediately affected concerned themselves with doing what was necessary to help the victims and their families, rather than worrying about appearances. Healthcare brands admitted their doctors needed reinforcement caring for the wounded who even lined hallways, they told NPR on Monday. On Oct. 1, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center called in 100 extra doctors, but didn’t stop there. Nurses, technicians and support staff joined the ranks.
Sunrise Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky told NPR:
"When you're talking about a mass casualty incident like this, this is where you call in the backup, and you call in the backup to the backup, and you may have to message the rest of your medical staff that you may need their help," he says.
While in the long run, such measures may help brand reputations for marketers like these in a city where visiting gamblers may soon take comfort in seeing an enhanced police presence on The Strip, other brands may have more difficulty.
The first one, the NRA, is a nationwide advocacy organization that’s not synonymous with Vegas — or any other city.
As Congress fields renewed public interest in gun control — which may inversely affect gun sales — the NRA is being criticized by the mainstream press for silence and is itself delaying a political ad buy, according to Ad Age.
The NRA delayed ads slated to begin on Tuesday by a week for the Virginia governor’s race. The NRA endorsed Republican candidate Ed Gillespie over the Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who the Washington Times reports as saying in August: “I’m not at all ashamed of having an ‘F’ rating from the NRA.”
One of the brands offering “room assistance,” MGM Resorts, turned its home page black and on Tuesday, it bears the message “Our prayers for the victims. Our gratitude to the brave first responders.”
Colors on MGM’s submenus were also muted, but language remained on the description of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino — the hotel from which the gunman opened fire on Oct. 1. It reads:
Stay at our resort for easy access to the hottest beach concerts each summer, exquisite dining like Aureole & Libertine Social, and liveliest nightclubs including House of Blues, the Foundation Room, and the Daylight Beach Club. Between that and choosing to see Michael Jackson's ONE by Cirque du Soleil, there'll never a dull moment on your next Vegas vacation.
But MGM quickly altered the look and content of MandalayBay.com — a site perhaps more likely to be viewed by survivors and families. The Twitter account @MandalayBay reiterates the brand message:
A hotline for the victims, family members and others who were directly impacted by last night’s events has been set up. pic.twitter.com/uOvPe03tS9
— Mandalay Bay Resort (@MandalayBay) October 2, 2017
In the end, it appears as though marketers are responding quickly and with sensitivity to this tragedy. And it also appears as though they’re specifically avoiding promotions and calls to action — what shaken Americans would consider marketing.
Is this the Las Vegas you know?
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
Related story: Does Gun Marketing Matter?