Despite being Britain’s biggest bingo club chain, boasting more than 100 venues and an active database of over one million customers, Buzz Bingo is a relative unknown. Now, the business is on a mission to attract bingo lovers of all ages and genders across the UK by positioning itself as a brand for the people.
“We are unashamedly a brand for ordinary people and everyone’s welcome,” says Amanda Howard, Buzz Bingo marketing director.
“You can come in your onesie, you can come dressed up, you can come in a group or you can come on your own. Particularly as a woman going into a club on your own it’s a really safe and warm environment where the staff will show you how to play and other customers will help. It’s very rare from a service point of view in today’s leisure economy.”
Buzz Bingo owns 122 bingo clubs across England and Scotland as a result of the £241m acquisition of Gala Bingo’s physical clubs made by its parent company, private equity firm Caldeonia Investments, in December 2015.
The company traded under the Gala Bingo licence until September when it rolled out its £40m rebrand to Buzz Bingo, including the launch of its first online bingo site in October. Following a pilot rebrand of five outlets in June, 98 clubs were given the Buzz Bingo branding in September, with plans to finish the roll out in February after the key Christmas trading period.
While Gala Bingo decided to shed itself of its physical venues, Buzz Bingo saw an opportunity to claim a space on local high streets, building a sense of community both online and offline.
The emphasis is on offering an affordable and accessible night out. The in-club party packages cost £15 for food, drink and a night of bingo, while the welcome pack includes bingo for a night and a drink for £10. Howard explains that the experience is “really inter-generational”, with Mother’s Day being the company’s biggest day of the year.
While Buzz is proud of the nostalgia surrounding bingo, the ambition is to show how it has evolved into a modern game. Howard believes that bingo has fallen off the radar because a lot of marketing has been “quite traditional” and the sector has also had to contend with the stereotypical view that ‘it’s just something my gran does’.
“There’s not enough focus on young people, so it’s not necessarily front and centre in terms of social and on people’s phones. I want the great British public to fall in love with bingo again because I think there is something uniquely British and uniquely collective about it,” says Howard.
The name Buzz comes from the bingo lexicon and was chosen to evoke the anticipation of winning, as well as a feeling of fun and inclusivity. Howard explains that the team wanted Buzz Bingo to be a “multi-sensory brand” and invested time in getting consumers accustomed to the new branding.
“Sometimes with a product launch you want to make a big bang, but this was the complete opposite,” she says.
“We invited our best customers in and gave them the first chance to look at our plans, the first chance to get some of the goodies and it was an ongoing conversation about ‘how your club is changing’.”
The rebrand has been backed by the launch of Buzz Bingo’s first TV campaign on 12 October, which shows people in their 30s and 40s enjoying playing bingo online and offline. Howard argues that a lot of advertising in the bingo sector is about “people in a fake environment”, whereas Buzz Bingo does not need to fake it.
The TV ad has been supported by programmatic display, targeted paid social and a direct mail campaign aimed at existing customers, coupled with the re-issue of membership cards to the million-strong database.
To date, the company has 400,000 followers on social media across its local club sites, although the team are keen not to exclude anyone because they’re not on social.
Furthermore Howard is adamant that for Buzz Bingo print and direct mail are not dead: “The big thing for me is that while I inherited a predominantly direct mail, printed point of sale, it’s not about throwing that away. It’s about how do we introduce the channels and get the right mix depending on our customer segment,” she explains.
The response so far has been “really positive” says Howard, who measures success in terms of how much Buzz can grow its omnichannel customers. Whereas the current overall gender split is 24% male to 76% female, 32% of new customers are male. Furthermore, while the average age of a Buzz member is 44, among new members the average age is 35 and 35% are under 25.
Whereas Buzz does boast a heritage on the high street through the Gala Bingo legacy, it is a complete newcomer online.
Female focused brand 888Ladies Bingo tops the list of bingo-specific brands within the leisure and entertainment category on YouGov BrandIndex at 13, followed by Sun Bingo (25), Tombola (26), Foxy Bingo (32), Gala Bingo (34) and Mecca Bingo (36).
Mecca Bingo is the only one of these nationwide brands to have an offline presence, operating 85 clubs across the UK. The market for offline bingo is proving lucrative for Mecca, which generated £208.1m in revenue from its clubs during the year to 30 June 2018 from 9.7 million customer visits, with an average spend per visit of £21.46. The company’s digital revenues reached £75m during the same period.
We are unashamedly a brand for ordinary people and everyone’s welcome.
Amanda Howard, Buzz Bingo
Acknowledging that Buzz Bingo is trying to carve out a niche in a highly competitive sector, Howard says it is crucial to be clear about the Buzz tone of voice, character and personality, all of which are rooted in the community.
To stand out Buzz Bingo has launched a series of initiatives, including gifting anyone who has played in a venue over the past two years £10 just to try the website. The online registration has been simplified so all players need to do is enter their membership number.
The website also has a Bingo Buddies function that allows players to find their friends online. Meanwhile, VIP members are invited to join the Diamond Club, which offers birthday surprises, event invites, promotions and an invitation to two exclusive bingo sessions a month.
Creating a culture that cares
Howard explains that the biggest aspect of creating a new company culture was ensuring that the people who work in the London and Nottingham offices, and across the clubs nationwide, feel a sense of pride in what Buzz represents.
The marketing team worked closely with operations to ensure that it didn’t feel like the rebrand was being designed at head office and then kept secret from the club employees or local customers.
Putting the customer at the heart of the rebrand is easier in a smaller business, says Howard, who heads up a team of 24 marketers. She joined Buzz Bingo after holding a variety of marketing and digital specific roles at Boots, Vision Express and Nottingham Trent University.
“I came from Boots where there were 1,000 of us in marketing. At Buzz we’re not a big organisation, so actually it’s really easy for us to work together to put the customer at the heart of what we do. You’ll see that in the way we work with the digital team and IT on things like GDPR. I’ve not found the same barriers here that I’ve found at other organisations,” she adds.
The vision going forward is to create an omnichannel experience and rather than adding new club locations the focus will be on deciding what else Buzz can do with its club space to better serve its communities.