Until yesterday, I didn’t know a great deal about Pokémon Go, other than the fact it was taking America, and seemingly the rest of the world, by storm.
According to intelligence from Sensor Tower, a mobile app support company, users are spending more time on Pokémon Go than Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and even Facebook.
What’s more, if the following Google Trends graph is anything to go by, then the UK cares more about catching Pokémon than it does about Brexit:
Now I’ve downloaded and played Pokémon Go myself (purely for research purposes, honest) I can understand why it’s so popular: it offers nostalgia by the truck load, boasts arguably the most innovative gameplay to ever grace a mobile device, and provides a social experience like nothing else. Also, it’s hella fun.
Love it or hate it, there’s no escaping Pokémon Go at the moment, and with the official UK launch imminent, hysteria is only set to intensify.
For marketers, Pokémon Go presents an opportunity too big to ignore.
Location, location, location
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the workings of Pokémon Go, it is an augmented reality game, meaning it mixes virtual gameplay features with real-life elements. Using the phone’s GPS, camera and clock, the game encourages users to explore their real world surroundings in search of virtual creatures: walk by a lake or river and you’ll stand a better chance of finding water Pokémon, search parks to find grass Pokémon, while some Pokémon only come out at night (stay safe out there, kids).
The game also features things called PokéStops; locations on the map that allow players to stop and replenish in-game supplies. PokéStops are typically located at real life landmarks such as historical points of interest, monuments, and art installations, but have also been known to pop up in less appropriate places.
And then there are Pokémon Gyms; locations where players can train and fight their Pokémon with other players, and battle to become ‘gym leaders’.
The open world nature of Pokémon Go means very few locations are off limits, and for the business owners lucky enough to be crowned a PokéStop or Pokémon Gym, Christmas may have just come early this year.
Some savvy business owners situated in prime Pokémon Go locations have been taking full advantage by dropping Lures – a feature used to attract Pokémon to a specific location within the game for around 30 minutes at a time – to, in turn, attract hoards of real-life Pokémon hunters through their doors. Because Lures cost actual money, most players are reluctant to buy them, but for businesses, the small investment could have huge returns.
For restaurants, bars and coffee shops in particular, having a good stock of Pokémon could be the best hook since free WiFi.
Pokémon Go is, by nature, a single player game, but once players reach Level 5, they have a choice to join one of three teams; Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue) or Valor (Red).
In terms of in-game experience, it does not matter which of these teams a player joins. However, this is the internet, and on the internet – a place where public allegiances are everything – it matters.
Local businesses are taking full advantage of these team allegiances by offering discounts, hosting events, and generally promoting their own allegiances through social media.
If you are considering doing something similar for your own business, it’s probably a good idea to get a feel for the most popular local team before hoisting a coloured flag.
All aboard the bandwagon
Businesses don’t have to be a PokéStop or pledge allegiance to a coloured flag in order to take advantage of Pokémon Go. Here are a few examples.
You could host a lure party;
Make a rarity chart;
Arrange a dog walk;
Or just give the people what they need;
— Amazon (@amazon) July 11, 2016
If truth be told, I’m super excited about Pokémon Go. While the game itself may not have me hooked (yet), the technology behind it offers a glimpse into what the future might hold for mobile gaming, and augmented reality more generally. From a marketing point of view, I look forward to seeing how brands and local businesses cash in on the Pokémon gold rush, because for now at least, it looks like there’ll be plenty to go around.
If you need me, I’ll be in the park looking for a Pikachu.