How Businesses Are Using Pokémon Go for Marketing

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you have probably heard of the latest mobile app that has taken the world by storm.

Yep, it’s Pokémon Go – and it’s the most recent game in the Pokémon series that started 20 years ago. It alshas got people everywhere hooked.

Many of these people don’t know the difference between a Vulpix and a Squirtle. I still don’t, even after writing this article. But they are out there along with fans of the series trying to “catch ‘em all.”

While Nintendo and Google, the two companies who partnered to create the app, are profiting, they are not the only businesses to make money from this game.

What Exactly is Pokémon Go and Why Should I Care?

Pokémon Go is a mobile game for iOS and Android that puts the player in the role of a Pokémon trainer. However, what’s made this game so engrossing and fascinating is that it is the first augmented reality game to gain popularity. Instead of journeying through a fantasy world chasing Pokémon, players have to walk around looking for Pokémon on their smartphone or tablet. If they see a Pokémon on their map, they tap it, and their device’s camera turns on, and they can see the creature superimposed over the camera’s feed, so it looks like the Pokémon is on their bed, desk, or whatever the camera is facing. Then they try to flick a small ball called a Pokéball at the Pokémon. If it lands just right, they catch it. If not, they can try again.

You can find Pokémon all over, which had led many people to get out and walking miles every day trying to find rare Pokémon. They congregate in parks or organize events, and many have made new friends while playing. The game is being credited with getting people outdoors and moving around.

But wait, there must be more to Pokémon Go than just that, right?

You’re right, there is! And this is where the marketing potential for business is. There are places called “Pokéstops” where you can refill your “Pokéballs” and collect points after walking a certain number of miles (and it uses both the device’s pedometer and GPS, so you can’t cheat by using a treadmill). Then there are teams players can join. These teams battle for control of gyms, and the player who controls a gym for a certain amount of time gains points.

How Can Businesses Use Pokémon Go for Marketing?

So how can businesses increase their profits with Pokémon Go? Much of it has to do with the Pokéstops and Gyms. While Niantic (the startup created by Nintendo and Google to develop and oversee the game) isn’t allowing businesses to apply to be Pokéstops or Gyms yet (the option to be a sponsored Pokéstop is coming in the future), many businesses are already one of the two, or they are very near one that they can take advantage of.

That’s because Niantic tagged many public works of art, churches, parks, post offices, and other landmarks as Pokéstops. Players need to visit these Pokéstops regularly to stock up on Pokéballs, eggs, and other items, plus they can add a lure (an item they purchase in the game using real money) to a Pokéstop. When they do, Pokémon appear much more frequently in that area for approximately 30 minutes. Players can see when a lure has been activated on their map, and many will come and stay near the lure until it disappears.

Businesses such as restaurants, bars, or any other place that offers food, beverages, or just a place to sit down, are likely to have Pokémon Go players hanging around for quite some time. That is because after one lure wears off, there is a good chance another player will use their own lure, starting a new 30-minute cycle. A restaurant may have every table taken up by Pokémon Go players. While some may only order something small, it’s still someone hanging around that wouldn’t have been there ordinarily.

For other businesses, players may spend some time browsing or may make a note of the store and come back later. Some may be accompanied by their spouse, parents, or children who have no interest in Pokémon. These people may even shop while their companions are busy racking up points.

Pokémon-Themed Items

Many large businesses already carry licensed Pokémon items, such as shirts, action figures, video games, and much more. Some even use Pokemon in their marketing campaigns. These stores are putting their Pokémon merchandise front and center, and many have sold record numbers of these items since the app launched. While the games and anime series has always been popular, it has reached new heights. Online sales are also up. All of this can be seen in Nintendo’s stock price, which increased by 25% only a week after the game launched, adding $7.5 billion dollars to Nintendo’s overall value.

The Future of Pokémon Go and Marketing

While players can only suggest a new Pokéstop area on Niantic’s website, enterprising programmers have found coding in the game that indicates they may offer promotional deals with businesses in the future. Many anticipate Niantic to partner with McDonald’s and GameStop first, since both chains have done Pokémon-related promotions in the past, but it is possible they will simply open it up to any business willing to pay to host a Pokéstop or gym.

One way you may be able to get a marketing boost for your business for free, is to suggest a Pokéstop. If you have a sculpture, mural, or any other piece of art near or on your building. If it is not tagged as a Pokéstop already, they can submit it via Niantic’s website. The company has not yet revealed what criteria it will use to determine if a piece of art, a park, or another location qualifies, but it’s worth a shot!

If a business doesn’t have any art nearby, they could contact a local artist and hire them to paint the side of their building or offer to display some of their artwork for sale inside the restaurant. Once the mural is done, it can be submitted as a Pokéstop.

This may not be limited to businesses, either. Convention, Conference, and Tradeshow organizers may eventually be given the chance to make their event a temporary Pokéstop or gym, adding a new reason for people to attend these events. This could be an especially popular marketing tactic with electronics tradeshows or comic, sci-fi, and video game conventions.

How Long Will It Last?

As with every trendy marketing channel, it’s very uncertain right now. What we do know is that Niantic has stated that it plans on publishing small updates or bug fixes to Pokémon Go about every two weeks. Players expect one of these updates to add Pokémon trading to the game, while another may add player battles or events offering very rare Pokémon. However, what most players want to know is when more Pokémon will be added. There are over 700 of these creatures in the main line of Pokémon games, but only the first 151 are available in the app.

Most have pointed to the addition of new Pokémon to be the single largest factor in determining how long this craze lasts. If it is done too early, Niantic will burn all the different Pokémon fairly quickly, but if they are released too slowly, players may lose interest and not return to the game to catch them. It has to be carefully balanced.

However, while its future may be uncertain, one thing is very clear: Pokémon Go is incredibly popular right now, and businesses are rushing to take advantage of that.

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