Scarcity, legacy, and worth often define the essence of the luxury product, but it can also define the essence of the luxury experience. The M life rewards program (MLife Moments) for MGM Resorts International are unique examples of the luxury experience. Not everyone can access them. With their popularity growing exponentially, they are memorable and define a sense of worth, time, effort and aesthetic purpose. A year ago, when we interviewed Scott Voeller, Senior Vice President of Brand Strategy and Advertising at MGM Resorts International, he said the non-gaming population at MGM resorts was at 40%. He also said he expected the population to rise, due in part to the uptick in the economy, but also due to the popularity of the M life program. Their unique rewards/benefits program is open to anyone who stays, dines, goes to shows, spas, conferences, uses social media and plays slots and table games.
He was right. It was reported a few days ago by both Mr. Voeller and President of MGM Resorts International, Bill Hornbuckle that the non-gaming population had risen to 60% at all of the MGM Resorts in 2012. In contrast to the 37 million visitors that came last year, they expect the M life program to grow even more and forecast 40 million visitors to arrive in Las Vegas. M life members are rewarded at fifteen resorts in Las Vegas and throughout the U.S. There are five tier levels of M life, beginning with Sapphire and ending with the invitation-only NOIR. Drawing from MGM Resorts portfolio of amenities, M life features nearly 100 M life Moments, ranging from swimming with the sharks at Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef Aquarium to a fantasy batting practice experience with a former Tiger's pitcher at Detroit's Comerica Park. For many of us, however, experiencing M life moments seem as distant as winning the Lottery.
We had read about the M life moments, but reading about them in print and then experiencing them in reality seemed like taking a profound leap from theory into practice. Yet, there we were in Las Vegas from April 4-7th, experiencing many diverse M life Moments—the same or similar to the ones that top gamers, diners, convention-goers and entertainment seekers experience with M life credits. The stretch limos, the backstage experiences, the cooking and mixology lessons, the VIP entrance/exits, the skybox seating, the meeting with executive chefs and swimming with Bottlenose dolphins were all ours to experience. We came to better understand the system behind these moments and the meaning of preferred access to the exceptional experiences provided by the M life program.
M life Moments: Mixology/Cooking Lessons
Some of our M life moments involved private culinary and mixology lessons. At the Hit Bar and Lounge within the Monte Carlo we learned to create the essence of cocktails. The chief mixologist, Michael MacDonnell (a mixology celebrity on YouTube) taught us much we did not know about blending great libations. One was the Blood and Sand, named after a 1922 Rudolph Valentino bullfighting film where a character lights an orange peel on fire before serving the cocktail. Another was a private cooking lesson with Executive Chef Vincent Pouessel inside Aureole, at Mandalay Bay. He taught us how to make an exceptional French onion soup and showed us some black truffles he recently purchased for his cooking. The truffles' cost boggled our minds, as they were large, black, very odiferous, and appropriately packaged in a gold box.
We also toured the four-story Aureole Wine Tower, designed by Adam Tihany, the architect of many hotels at City Center. The tower has its own Wine Angel Stewards who ascend to retrieve bottles. Guests can search the 3,200 bottle touch-screen wine list, which includes a 1961 bottle of Chateau Petrus, valued at $4,500. Another experience was a private dinner at Sensi, inside the Bellagio, with Executive Chef Royden Ellamar presiding. Ellamar, who recently won on an episode of Food Network's hit television show "Chopped," created a special meal for the event, and during the dinner we were given the option of eating his award-winning dinner or choosing from anything on the menu. Chef Ellamar is known for his philosophy of using locally sourced, authentic foods from Nevada and surrounding states.
Although not an M life moment (but inclusive of M life VIP seating) was the Buffet at Aria, where we ate breakfast. For those, like us, who are not morning people (much less breakfast eaters) it was wonderfully overwhelming to see Snow Crab legs, fresh oysters, shrimp, mussels, clams, Tandoori oven-made kebabs as well as an offering of champagne, sangria and mimosas to complement the regular breakfast fare (all at 8:45 AM). Somehow we managed to drink some cappuccino and eat about a half a piece of chicken apple sausage, which seemed just right. But many colleagues were found eating steak and crab legs along with a never-ending supply of champagne service.
M life Moments: Theatre
We have always surmised that creating experiences that join the best of nature and culture is the most complex, yet the most rewarding activity. Many of our recently experienced M life moments combined both. Meeting the Cirque de Soleil troupe backstage at the MGM Grand was a fascinating experience. We talked with them right before they went onstage, ready to perform KA. We watched the latest production in the VIP section of the huge theatre, about 12 rows up from the stage. After dinner at American Fish we met some of the troupe who performed in another Cirque show called Zarkana, (this one at Aria/CityCenter) which we also saw, sitting in the most comfortable VIP couches (not seats!).
M life Moments: Swimming With Dolphins
At Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage on a crisp desert morning, we donned wetsuits and leaped into one of the huge, salty dolphin pools, where we took a dip with these exceptionally intelligent aquatic beings. We swam personally with Oswald, who seemed very understanding that we could not hang onto his slippery dorsal fin for a ride. We also fed him his favorite meal: Jell-O cubes and fresh herring.
M life Moments: Bellagio Fountain Songs
In the spirit of full disclosure, we had done this before, and it brought back memories of how joyfully complicated it was to choose two songs out of the 81 on the Bellagio Fountain list. But it was gratifying to see our colleagues so interested in deciding which of the songs they wanted to hear as the fountains danced right in front of us, on the 50-yard-line of Bellagio's lake. We sat in the VIP section, fountain side at Hyde, a wonderful boutique bar/small plate venue at the Bellagio. About a year ago we chose Aaron Copeland's Simple Gifts as one of the Fountain songs. A few days ago my colleagues chose, among others, Elvis's Viva Las Vegas. Like the Jell-O cubes and herring, Elvis and Aaron Copeland were a unique pairing.
M life Moments: Art & Celebrities
We also had the chance to meet with Jeff Mitchum, a Master Fine Art and Landscape Photographer with his own gallery at the Bellagio. During our trip Jeff provided us with a private, personal showing of his work inside the gallery at Bellagio where he explained the back-stories behind many of his panoramic photographs, including where and how they were taken and what they meant to him. Jeff has been called the Ansel Adams of color and we spent well over an hour with him as he explained his personal history with Ansel Adams, as well as his present and future work projects.
While these are just some of the M life moments experienced, the experiential context of M life was further defined when we went to the Shadow Creek Golf Course to see the opening day of the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament. While there we talked with Michael himself along with many of his celebrity friends including Will Smith, Michael Phelps, Ozzie Smith, Jerry Rice, Kevin Dillon, Penny Hardaway, Wayne Gretzky, Brandi Chastain, and so many more. We also had access to the VIP Hospitality Deck where we had a great view of the 18th hole while eating from a substantial lunch buffet. After experiencing these moments we began to think about the whole meaning of "play" and the need for it in our lives.
There are many levels of play in Las Vegas and most all of them provide us a time when we escape the bothersome armaments of the everyday and move into a temporary realm of sensual and cognitive transformation. We listened to the voices of the dolphins, swam with them, felt the cool spindrift from the Bellagio Fountains, walked the serene, deep green Shadow Creek Golf Course, observed celebrities in friendly competition, and met the Cirque de Soleil Troupe. All of this, plus learning the how-to’s of substantial food and cocktail creation, meeting a great photographer and learning about his work created an M life memory bank that quickly accesses the tonic of luxury and play, making daily life more tolerable and more hopeful.