The Annals of Marketing: Betfair vs. Ladbrokes

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/31/2008 07:30:00 PM
As the locals here are wont to say, I have been investigating the best way to make an online "punt" (bet) on whether Big Brown will be able to become the first Triple Crown winner in thirty years. Not being an inveterate gambler, the first two choices that occurred to me were the heavily advertised firms Betfair and Ladbrokes. One of the most studied areas in marketing is new client acquisition, for it is often difficult to find new customers in relatively saturated markets like the UK. Indeed, this is a good chance to see just how marketing works. In the absence of other informational cues, one of the first things consumers react to is the branding of the product: the very name of the product itself may trigger affective responses. There are good reasons why pharmaceutical firms (and others) spend millions coming up with seemingly inane, vaguely medical-sounding names such as "Erbitux" or "Zyprexa."

In the case of these two gambling firms, their names are indeed suggestive--although not in an immediately desirable way for one firm. Betfair seems like a pretty damn good name for an online gambling firm. There is a fad in the marketing discipline known as "integrated marketing communications." That is, a product or service provider ought to provide a consistent theme in its marketing message; say, from the product packaging seen on store shelves to customer support. From what I can ascertain so far from Betfair, they do a relatively good job in this respect. Their brand emphasizes procedural fairness in determining odds and in placing bets. Whether this rings true is another matter, but the message is pretty consistent.

Next we have one of Britain's three largest bookies: Ladbrokes. Not being English, I have always been perplexed that one of the major gambling firms in the UK is named after an outcome I'm sure all betting lads [and "ladettes"?] would prefer to avoid: going broke. I am not exactly sure if the continued success of Ladbrokes is due to or has been hampered by its colourful name, but it's surely an attention-getter for a gambling company. Attention marketing scholars: there might be some sort of "reverse psychology" thing going on here that may be worthwhile to imitate. Should the latter possibility hold, maybe we'll see hospitals named "Blokecomatose"; cars such as the "Ford Crash" or "Volkswagen Lemon"; and supermarkets like "Poisonproduce." Before getting too carried away, though, note that the Ladbrokes site gives a perfectly good explanation why the firm is named as such:
Betting shops began to spring up around the country but were quickly outlawed by the Betting Act of 1853. Despite the legislation, around two hundred men are thought to have been running books at the time, mostly on course. In 1886 a certain Mr Schwind and Mr Pennington went into partnership as commission agents, principally with the object of backing horses trained by the former at Ladbroke Hall in Worcestershire.