For Marketers, Pokémon Go is Game On

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Let me start by saying that I don’t play games on my phone, nor do I play video games. So my downloading the Pokémon Go app was pretty uncharacteristic, to say the least.

My reasoning for doing so was twofold:

  • I was curious.
  • I needed to write this post and have some idea of what I’m talking about.

The first thing I had to do was enter my date of birth, which tells me that there’s some kind of demographic tracking going on.

I then had to turn on my phone’s GPS and select which Gmail account I wanted to use. Again, tracking.

Then this message popped up on the screen: “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.”

From my minimal research up to this point, this alert speaks to Pokémon creator, Satoshi Tajiri’s intent for creating the game in the first place.

Tajiri, an insect collector and game developer, developed Pokémon to combine his hobby of insect collecting with his love of video games.

This is why, when you play the game, you need to get outside and explore in order to catch Pokémon – just like an insect collector would need to get out in nature to do the same thing. Which is actually a pretty neat idea.

As the game has proven thus far, it’s also a way for people to connect with other players in person and with local businesses.

Now, you’ll find all sorts of articles and blog posts that have been written about how to play the game, which is great if that’s what you’re looking to do.

However, since I work for a performance marketing agency with a plethora of e-commerce clients, my colleagues and I are more interested in how Pokémon Go and its augmented reality features could be used for online marketing.

Here’s what we’ve found and also our idea for what the future might hold.

PokéStops and Offline Marketing

Since the game rolled out in July 2016, players have been congregating to PokéStops, which are typically landmarks, such as museums and churches, but can also be businesses (bars, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.).

For the players, PokéStops are places where you can accumulate items that will help you catch more Pokémon. For businesses, they provide opportunities to attract customers and engage in the fun at the same time.

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PokéStops, as well as Pokémon Gyms (places where you train your Pokémon), were pre-determined by Pokémon Go developer Niantic Labs. In some cases, businesses will have the opportunity to become “sponsored locations” (i.e. PokéStops or Gyms) as a way of monetizing the free-to-play app, according to The Financial Times.

Pokémon GO also has an in-app feature called a “Lure Module.” Lure Modules attract Pokémon to a particular PokéStop for 30 minutes. Businesses or other places designated as PokéStops can use these Lure Modules to attract Pokémon — and thereby, trainers (players) —to boost their foot traffic. However, it’s up to the business to get creative and turn those smartphone-focused people into paying customers when they do show up.

Apparently, Niantic has also unveiled a new process that allows players to request PokéStops and Gyms in their area via the Pokémon GO support page. This page will also allow businesses and organization to be removed from being a PokéStop if they are finding it to be harmful or inappropriate to their business.

So now that it’s a bit more clear how brick-and-mortar businesses can leverage the Pokémon Go craze to lure customers into their business, what about online businesses?

App-to-App Marketing

While not being used yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing partnerships between the Pokémon Go app and other mobile apps, like Button. Button connects apps to leading commerce brands to drive monetization.

For example, a “button” for Uber’s app could be added to the Pokémon Go app. So a player who sees that the Pokémon they’ve been waiting weeks to catch is across town, they could open up the Uber app within the Pokémon Go game and grab an Uber to wherever their treasured Pokémon is.

Google AdWords

For many retailers, Google’s pay-per-click AdWords has proven to be a lucrative direct marketing resource to drive online shopping as well as foot traffic into stores. Some companies will likely create Pokémon-focused PPC ads and promotions to drive consumers to their stores.

This type of online-to-offline marketing could also be very lucrative during this back-to-school shopping season. Pokémon Go-focused online ads could appeal to both kids and adults, drive foot traffic and add entertainment and amusement to what can sometimes be a stressful shopping experience.

Augmented Reality

Pokémon Go has shown how easy and fun it can be to use augmented reality platforms to play a game, but what about using it to shop? MIT’s Technology Review article (which was published before the Pokémon Go game took off) contemplates how stores can use augmented reality to visualize what purchases could look like in your home.

Their article explores online furniture retailer Wayfair’s new augmented reality app, which lets users place full-scale 3-D virtual models of Wayfair products in real settings.  Expect other retailers to follow suit, especially for products such as home appliances, paint, pictures, gardening, interior design and more.

A New Reality of Marketing

While the future of these types of Augmented Reality (AR) games remains to be seen, there’s no question that there’s huge potential for marketers and businesses alike.

By working in tandem with Niantic Labs, Google is able to collect heaps of local geo data; Niantic Labs is able to monetize their app through in-app purchases and sponsored PokéStop sites; and businesses are able to collect virtual Pokémon in the vicinity of their businesses. This trifecta foreshadows a new age of augmented reality marketing in a gamified consumer world.

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