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The Pokémon Go Disrupt

Madeleine Coe | On 29, Jul 2016

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There’s a Charizard in your garden and the neighborhood kids are climbing over the fence to capture it. This isn’t an obscure early 2000’s cartoon reference; this is today’s augmented reality and marketers are trying to understand how they too can catch them all (Pokémon-obsessed customers that is).

We already knew that the Pokéstop locations in Pokémon Go are based on locations with a popular number of geo-tagged photos and check-ins, but Niantic Labs, the company that produced the virally popular mobile game, is now planning to partner with retailers who want to use them to attract customers.

Pokéstops are valuable to gamers since they function as hubs where players can gain experience and items like the Poké Balls that allow them to capture monsters. Retailers already designated as Pokéstops can attract Pokémon (and players) by paying for a Lure Module. Niantic plans on further monetizing the game by creating these locations that retailers can pay to sponsor, thus drawing in real-life customers trying to visit these in-game locations.

For restaurants and retail stores, the game has been a boon, as in-game Pokéstop and Pokémon locators are already affecting players’ real life behavior. Gyms are locations where players can battle each other with their Pokémon, and also provide a boost in foot traffic. For many businesses, the effect is not only superficial; business owners are reporting a 10-20% increase in revenue since the game launched.

Businesses are getting clever with the way that they use Pokémon Go for their marketing, even those without a tie to a Pokéstop or gym location. A sports bar local to our offices recently promoted a contest where players had to name one of their Pokémon after the bar and battle their way to gym leadership at a local plaza by the end of a timed round.

The local marketing potential is not the only exciting thing. The augmented reality application means we are slowly growing closer to the Gibson-esque future of marketing in Virtual Reality (VR) that Robert Angelo predicted when we spoke to him last September.

However, rather than an augmented reality experience conducted from your home or office, Pokémon Go’s VR experience is layered over the world we traverse daily and shows to marketers and clients that widespread adoption could be possible now that consumers have had a taste of the technology.

With just this mobile game, we have begun to disrupt the lines of reality. PokéMatch is a dating app that fuses love of Pokémon with a Tinder-style matching algorithm. It already has over 7.5 k active users.

“What this means for marketers is that the next time those adults are asked to interact with an augmented-reality interface on their mobile device, it’s no longer a foreign concept to them,” said Larry Kim of Inc.com.

Pokémon Go’s viral success is also due its widespread appeal and cross-purpose usage. Pokémon is an established brand that has touched three decades, so instead of targeting a niche group of gamers, it appeals to a large group from those nostalgic for the Pokémon on the Nintendo Gameboy platform of millennial childhoods to those looking for a way to gamify their fitness, to kids new to the brand and those simply interested in experiencing the latest tech and trends. With little to no advertising, the mobile game exploded with a very general marketing strategy; an anomaly in an era of targeted, individualized approaches. Since it can be downloaded on any smartphone, the game is also accessible to a wider audience than if it were to be released for a specific platform.

While its widespread appeal is notable, marketers should be aware before jumping on the bandwagon. While staying up to date on trends is always a good idea to show off your brand relevance, that doesn’t mean that every trend is right for your brand. Feverishly chasing your brand audience through the game—just like players running across busy intersections in hopes of capturing the Eevee that dashed away from them earlier— might not be the brightest move.

Take a lesson from the game itself; you don’t get to be the very best by haphazardly running around and capturing 5 Rattatas just because they popped up on your notifications. Go after the audiences that mesh with your product and catch them at the right part of the purchasing cycle. From awareness to consideration before throwing that Poké Balls (your call-to-action) to initiate the purchase, and making sure to “train them” and build brand loyalty once captured. That is the mark of a true master marketer!

Sources: Polygon, Business Insider, Inc., AdWeek, TheNextWeb

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