Why People Let Loose in Vegas

[Cache #165]

“What happens here, stays here.”  This is the tagline adopted in 2003 by Las Vegas, but it was hardly an original idea.  It was simply Sin City taking ownership of a line that has been around forever:  “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Why do people get so crazy in Vegas?  Upstanding individuals from around the world troll in voracious packs, drinking and gambling copiously and at all hours, engaging in random sex and otherwise doing alot of stuff they wouldn’t be caught dead – and would actually be dead for – doing back home.  And let’s make no mistake: this is not just a guys phenomenon: the women are at it in numbers and enthusiasm every bit equal to the men.

That the place is in the middle of nowhere is central to the power of its brand.  The fact that you have to cross the godforsaken desert to swan dive into its extravagance of water – pools, fountains and alcohol – is metaphoric for our lust to escape the dry life of hard work and obedience to deeply engrained social conventions.

The place must be isolated, a thing unto itself, so we can feel that what happened there does not return home with us, or even for us to act as if the tagline is actually “What happens in Vegas didn’t happen at all.”  Its geographic compartmentalization also helps explain why the same set of men or women going to Las Vegas for the weekend might act quite differently than if they were going to, say, Philadelphia.

To be sure, Vegas may be unmatched for its sin infrastructure, which includes a 24/7 carnival of hooker advertising, ubiquitous booze (including not just hooch but free hooch at the gambling tables), topless pools, strip joints and throbbing nightclubs.

But here’s the ultimate reason that people get crazy in Vegas:  they are simply responding to very clear brand positioning.  As epitomized by the city’s tagline, it is abundantly clear that getting wild is not just ok, and not just encouraged, but actually expected.

Remark-able for its clarity and boldness, the branding of this city has also accomplished something very unexpected.  It has debunked corporations’ greatest branding fear:  that forcefully communicating a single brand position means losing every single customer who isn’t interested in it.  Sure, you will lose some; as we have seen with Spence Diamonds and Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, helping people de-select is an important part of the point.

Yet, for all of the debauchery described above, anyone who has been to Vegas knows that you need not spend a moment or a dime on partying to have a fantastic time at the array of world-class restaurants, one-of-a-kind shows, shopping, golf and sightseeing on the Strip and in the wider area.

For brands that want to let their hair down and live a little, it is proof that one doesn’t necessarily need to look at positioning as going all-in, but instead as deciding which card to lead with.


New Andris Pone comment in the National Post:  “Birks and Tiffany & Co: Battle of the Blue Jewelry Boxes.”

Book:  Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo or download a free chapter.
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