Pokémon Go

Sh*t just got real: Pokemon Go and local marketing

I hate video games – but I love the possibilities that Pokémon Go gives to marketers.

The resurgence of the 90s videogame into the world of augmented reality has caused nothing short of a furor amongst the gaming and non-gaming communities. It’s a sure-fire sign of Pokémon Go’s success that the public at large are happy to label themselves geeks whilst indulging in their version of Poképorn.

So, how exactly does it work – and what’s all the fuss about?

I’m probably teaching many of you you how to suck eggs here, but Pokémon Go taps into the GPS and camera on a player’s phone to create a Pokémon world layered on top of what we really see when we point our cameras in front of ourselves. The game uses real-life landmarks and businesses as the grounds for virtual gaming journeys, where players have to physically visit the locations to collect items and unlock features on their mobile devices.

Short of a bit of Grand Theft Auto when I was 12, I’ve never been much of a gamer – but it’s this last point that excites me. If the enticement of collecting coveted items and characters is so great that gamers have already been coaxed into dangerous situations (think: robberies and shootings), then, surely, the Pokémon Go community is going to be happy to visit local businesses in return for some gamer gratification.

It’s quite simple, really: Pokémon Go has shot to the top of Google Play and the Apple app stores, so in a strategically reactive sense, you need to take a slice of the action.

The game has a feature called a lure module, which allows you to pay in order to attract Pokémon to a certain area. The benefit of this is the likelihood of scoring more coveted and more powerful Pokémon, whilst also meeting other gamers. The areas are described as Pokéspots and are usually a place of some significance, e.g. a park or a gym.

The lure module has just opened up a huge possibility to local marketing: luring gamers to buy coffee, ice cream, clothes, umbrellas (I am writing from gorgeous Manchester, after all) and so on and so forth.

The authors of the game aren’t stupid, either: they’ve already announced a suite of ad options, including ‘sponsored locations’, which will act as commercially viable Pokéspots.

The marketing community tends to jump on a bandwagon and repeat the latest action or technique ad nauseum – so here are a few pointers for businesses who are considering diverting budget into Pokémon Go advertising:

1)    Do you offer something that will enhance the gaming experience of the Pokémon Go community? Coffee and fast food spring to mind immediately for this very reason and also due to the low level of engagement asked of your customers/gamers when transacting. Or how about portable chargers, given the rate at which the apps drains battery capacity?

2)    Are your premises prominently located?

3)    Can you offer some degree of waiting space or shelter to your newly found customers? I think that the emergent Pokémon Go community will brave all sorts of elements to progress their game levels – but they’ll most certainly appreciate some refuge from the cold, rain and wind, if applicable.

4)    Pokémon Go has yet to release a tariff for advertising options, but do ensure that you forecast a realistic ROI from what will likely be quite an upfront cost, in the same ilk of a Snapchat lens or geo-filter.

Will we now see brand and agencies rush to create new types of augmented reality on the premise that this medium can facilitate local advertising? Most probably, but it’s not something I’d engage in lightly.

Pokémon Go works because it ticks many boxes: nostalgia, emotion, competitiveness and fun. It’s no mean feat to re-create a formula that sees workers take duvet days, parents forget about the kids’ tea and users crash app stores with excessive downloads.

Now, excuse me whilst I switch on my Windows 98 desktop and find my Grand Theft Auto CD…

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