Gotta catch ’em all: Can Pokémon Go work for marketers?Gotta catch ’em all: Can Pokémon Go work for marketers?

Gotta catch ’em all: Can Pokémon Go work for marketers?

Written by John Simpson on 18th Jul 2016

In case you’ve been living under a Boldore this past week, the UK and much of the developed world has been swept into a frenzy by a mobile app that involves people walking into strange places they would never normally explore to catch virtual monsters.


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This app – Pokémon Go – needed less than a week to steal Candy Crush’s crown as the most popular mobile phone game ever, with more daily users than Facebook and Twitter.

Like all overnight phenomenons, the concept is relatively simple. The game uses the GPS location of a player’s smartphone to place them on a Google Maps-based digital interpretation of their surroundings, which are populated by randomly generated pokéstop, gyms, and wild pokémon.

It also uses the smartphone’s camera to superimpose cartoon beasties over your real world environment that you then fling pokeballs at in an attempt to capture them. Like this:

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Yeah, it sounds kinda juvenile for people like me that have a mortgage, a full time job and a real life child to worry about. But Athletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann is a fan and if it’s good enough for Euro 2016’s highest scorer…



Experts are calling it the first significant step for augmented reality and what you’re here to find out is what can marketers do to utilise this pioneering technology?

‘Not very much’ is the unfortunate but brutal truth; at least as it stands. The game may have created a huge buzz and captured imaginations but in its current form, the app is bafflingly limited and feels like it has been rolled out too soon with some glaringly obvious functions absent.

For a game that has sparked so much healthy and positive social interaction, there are barely any social media functions built-in. In fact, aside from logging in via your Google account – which isn’t strictly required – that’s it.

Of course, gamers have worked around this by giddily screenshotting their smartphone whenever they find a Pokémon trying to sneak into their bed and uploading the image manually, but it feels like developers Niantic have missed an open goal by not including any social sharing function. Either that or the app was rushed out, and going off comments from Niantic, we’re tempted to believe it’s the latter.

The company has already confirmed that ‘sponsored locations’ are on the way, which’ll let paying businesses make their location a pokéstop or gym in a bid to attract new customers. But aren’t these the kinds of features that should have been there from the start?

You can already request for your property to become a pokéstop/gym or be removed in some cases but successful applicants rely on the sympathy of the Niantic gods.

Get Inventive

Ultimately, this means unless your company has a publicly accessible, bricks-and-mortar outlet, Pokémon Go doesn’t provide much in the way of obvious marketing opportunities, so that’s where you have to get inventive.

Domino’s Pizza has come up with this imaginative clip where a Pokémon Go player captures an especially rare ‘pepperoni passion’.

Meanwhile, businesses have been ramping up footfall by placing lures to attract Pokémon. At 100 pokecoins (or 79p) for one lure module which lasts 30 minutes, that can be pretty cost effective. Gesa Credit Union, not a business that’d particularly benefit from hoards of teenagers landing on their doorstep, got in on the act by doing just that.

Which locations have become pokéstops and which haven’t has mostly been down to random luck, but the fortunate ones have been capitalising by advertising the fact on their own social channels or with good ol’ street boards.

Some businesses have been offering discounts to certain Pokémon teams. Example: ‘10 per cent off for Team Valor’. Granted, Team Instinct and Mystic will be slightly miffed but it could be a risk worth taking.

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Limited timeframe

Especially considering how mobile games can nosedive in popularity once the initial hysteria is over. Remember Draw Something from 2012? Just a month after Zynga bought the Pictionary-based app for more than $200 million, a third of its 15 million daily users found something else to do.

These days, you’ll find the one-time most downloaded app languishing around in and around the top 500. Words With Friends – also a former chart topper – has aged a little better, making the occasional cameo in the iOS top 150.

Smartphone games can be very flash-in-the-pan and there’s the real risk that the Pokéball could burst before the app’s true marketing potential can be realised.

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