Pokemon Go Marketing

Pokemon Go, A Marketer’s Dream


Remember back in the days of Foursquare when you could build customer loyalty with marketing promises like “the Mayor drinks for free!” or “show us your check-in for a discount on your purchase?” It’s time to gear up for the next round of location-based marketing meets gamification. Except this time, the game part blows pretty much anything else we’ve seen out of the water.

I’m thirty-nine, and when I was growing up, we didn’t have a Nintendo. We had a computer, and a 300 baud modem, so while my friends were playing Nintendo, I was dialing into a local BBS to play Risk. (I know, I’m a nerd.) I tell you that to explain that up until yesterday, Pokemon means nothing to me outside of what I pick up here and there as my sons talk about it.

That changed on Friday when our 22-year-old designer mentioned sadly that she couldn’t find any Pokemon in our office and that her boyfriend was debating about upgrading his phone, simply because his current phone kept crashing while he tried to play the game.

That caught my attention enough to make me run some searches and to get caught up on some of the Pokemon Go related news. I scanned through some of the same stories most people have seen: the one about the Pokemon Go player who found the dead body, the one about the armed robbers who used the game to lure victims to secluded areas, and the many stories about Pokemon Go players who are suddenly finding themselves getting way more exercise than usual.

The one that caught my eye though was a stream of Tweets from someone who lives in what used to be a church, and who quickly figured out that the Augmented Reality game still thought it was still a church and had set his home up as a Gym. The resulting stream of Tweets as he and friends discuss and post pictures of the stream of players outside his home started sparking ideas.

It was shortly after reading that story that I started hunting down some stats and learned that in a matter of days, Pokemon Go had been installed on more Android devices than Tinder has and that it’s just shy of surpassing Twitter usage as well.


Pokemon Go to Overtake Twitter

Source: SimilarWeb

Not bad for a few days work.

I ended up downloading the game myself on Sunday morning. The experience was both addicting as a player and inspiring as a marketer. After a day’s worth of playing, I found myself awake at 2 am writing this article as I sorted through the various ways businesses could leverage the game’s popularity as part of their marketing efforts.

I admit that my experience with the game was lukewarm at best from my home. I snagged a few base level Pokemon while wandering around our rural 22-acre farm, but with no Pokestops or Gyms located within walking distance, the gameplay didn’t last long. It was later that day when I picked up a few Pokemon in the sound booth of our church and the parking lot and drink aisle of Walmart that I started to see the potential.

Since we happened to be driving our two nine-year-old sons to summer camp a few hours away that afternoon, I decided to check out the mapping overlay of the Augmented Reality side of the game. As we made the journey, it was fascinating to see what locations were tagged as Pokestops and Gyms while driving through small towns in rural Pennsylvania. Libraries, churches, monuments, and fire halls lit up the screen with Pokestops, which give players the chance to snag extra Pokeballs, eggs, and supplies when they are close. Gas stations, libraries and coffee shops often turned up as gyms, as did a raceway, a ball field and a school playground we passed. Since users need to visit gyms to “train” their Pokemon and join teams to defend local gyms and earn game credits, it’s not unusual for these locations to see a sudden influx of daily visitors.

Since players can take screen shots of the Pokemon they spot and capture in the wild, it should come as no surprise that social media feeds are filling up with pictures of Pidgeottos in the park,  Rattatas on the rail and Krabbys in Woolworths.  It should also come as no surprise that Millenials are cheering brands like Woolworths that have smartly jumped in on the fun with appropriate responses.

Woolworths Pokemon Go

Source: Woolworths’ Facebook Page

It should be playing on the mind of every marketer that Pokemon Go just might bring the world some of the best marketing tie-in potential we’ve seen in ages. Clearly, it’s possible this will turn out to be nothing more than a fad that will run its course in a few weeks or months. Even if that turns out to be the case, it is no less true that businesses who are quick to act can reap the rewards. Savvy business owners who make use of geo-targeting, existing email list segmentation and good old fashioned word of mouth could pick up some excellent foot traffic and loyalty points in short order.

With that in mind, here are ten quick and easy ways to consider getting a marketing boost from Pokemon Go.

First, download the game. Spend a few minutes playing it and check out the area around your business to see if there are Pokestops or Gyms located nearby. Look out the window and watch to see if you notice clusters of people wandering around staring at their phones, turning in all directions. If any of these are the case, you are probably located in a good spot to consider a little Pokemon Go marketing.

IF You Are Lucky Enough To Be a Gym Location

1. Consider taking advantage of the location and putting in the effort to dominate the gym, making sure your trainer name is the business name. I promise, players will notice, and you’ll get cool points.

2. Encourage team spirit by offering a discount or deal to members of the team (Red, Yellow or Blue) currently dominating your location. Maybe a 10% discount, a free appetizer or even a T-Shirt or drawstring bag with the gym location/business name.

3. Set up and advertise a set time for teams to meet and train together. Use your Facebook account or email list to throw a “Pokemon Go Trainer Party” at 7 pm on a slow night. Offer a discount to groups who show up to play, or just set up a reserved space for players to sit, meet and compare notes.

If You Are Lucky Enough to Be a Pokestop

4. A Pokestop can be hit by a player approximately once every five minutes. That makes it a perfect spot to circle back to, or hang around while hunting Pokemon. Consider adding some outdoor seating in good weather, or sun or rain coverage to players who may wish to congregate. Better yet, put up game themed signs inviting them in. Wouldn’t it be a shame if your outdoor patio filled up with customers who could refill their Pokeballs and berries while having lunch?

5. Besides simply inviting players in, consider figuring out a quick and easy way to monetize them. If you are a public library or a public park that has a Pokestop on your premises, set up a bottled water and snack vendor in that location. It won’t take long before enterprising kids recognize a Pokestop across the street from their house and sets up a lemonade stand that does killer business.

6. Look for the opportunity to pay to offer premium items at your location. Currently, players gain access to more advanced items as they level up, but it would make sense for Niantic to allow a Pokestop sponsor to offer a higher volume of premium items.

For Both of the Above and Everyone Else

7. Buy and deplore lures to attract foot traffic. A lure costs about fifty cents to deploy and attracts extra Pokemon to a set spot for thirty minutes. Parents are (rightly) fretting over their kids being drawn to a lure by those with nefarious purposes, but trusted businesses who advertise lures in advance could tie into the idea of player parties or discount options, or just enjoy the potential for extra business.

8. Be on the lookout for in-game Advertising opportunities. It may not be long before the game allows businesses or even individuals to buy the right to be a Pokestop or a Gym. I also wouldn’t expect to wait long before having the option to throw an Augmented Reality billboard into the game. Expect the folks at Niantic to monetize the game further through sponsorships, specially themed game items and other opportunities.

9. Encourage check-ins via Facebook that include pictures of Pokemon being caught in or around your location. Highlight the best catch of the week on your page, or gamify it further and run a leaderboard at your location with prizes given at certain intervals. This idea could work extremely well for libraries, public parks with visitor centers, large retail outlets like malls and cafes in heavily trafficked areas.

10. One of the biggest draws to the game is the increased physical activity that comes from chasing down new Pokemon with friends. Players get notices of nearby Pokemon and must walk, sometimes half a mile or more to get close enough to catch the new character. Another feature, which allows players to incubate eggs received at Pokestops, requires users to walk 2, 5 or 10 KM to trigger an egg hatching. Consider mapping out a walk designed to lead players past Pokestops, Gyms, and locations where you’ve set up a lure, using your business as the final destination. Require a certain number of players to show up together and award the one who scores the highest ranking Pokemon during their walk with a free item or discount.

Have you played around with any other marketing integration for Pokemon Go yet? Have a favorite personal story or experience while playing the game yourself? Share it in the comments below.

Jennifer Cario

Jennifer Cario has dedicated her career to creatively helping businesses and consumers connect in a way that positively impacts the bottom line. With over 20 years of industry experience, she has also written several books and developed social media training curriculum in use by hundreds of colleges, universities and enterprise companies around the world. Jen consistently develops fresh ideas and methods for communicating within the world of marketing.

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