It’s bigger than Twitter, hotter than Tinder and more engaging than Facebook. Never before have so many people of all ages been out flicking their balls around in public.
We are of course talking about the new mobile game phenomenon Pokemon Go.
The idea of being able to walk around in the real world catching fictional monsters on your phone is just too captivating for people to resist. It has vast nostalgic appeal, hitting a cultural zenith at just the right time as technology caught up with the (probably secret) dreams of many.
Whenever a cultural phenomenon hits , the first thing people in marketing departments everywhere think is “how do we capitalize on this?”
It has been out less than 2 weeks and already enterprising businesses have noticed the increased foot traffic from bold Pokemon Go hunters roaming the streets and have acted accordingly. One of the features in the game is visiting locations called Pokestops which can be used to recharge items in the game, also someone can put down a lure to attract more Pokemon to an area which is open to all players.
This drives the behavior of people flocking to concentrated areas to catch Pokemon. What one clever Starbucks did was to spend $40 on purchasing lures to increase the traffic to one of their locations. As a result, they sold a bunch of extra drinks to thirsty Pokemon trainers.
These instances have sprung up organically, but it has been uncovered that incentivized business tie-ins were part of the plan all along. Businesses, in this case, McDonalds, will be able to make their locations desirable to Pokemon go players, and perhaps include some sort of promotion to visit. For example buy a HappyMeal, scan a code and get free in-game currency or items.
So attracting fatigued Pokemon Go players to your physical location is one thing but how does this even apply to online-centric businesses?
Good question, at the moment this is just speculation based on the McDonalds reveal, but the option of redeemable in-game currency or items being offered as incentives might soon be an option for 3rd parties. McDonalds obviously has an arrangement with Pokemon Go developers, Niantic, to tie their locations in specifically. However, there isn’t anything stopping 3rd parties from offering digital incentives. “Hunt on our site for specials, Free lures on selected purchases!” for example.
Would it work? Just look at the news and discover the strife people are getting themselves into already over the games freely available assets. Hell yes, it would work!
For better or worse we are a step closer to living in an Augmented Reality world, and advertising will always be present in driving and reflecting our culture. If there is a need, fill it, if there isn’t a need, create one.
Now it might seem equal parts a sinister and ridiculous Sci-Fi movie people walking around in an augmented reality, driven by virtual incentives, but it’s only a short leap from what we do already with Yelp or Trip Advisor check in bonuses and the like. There have always been tie-in marketing, impromptu or otherwise to cash in on the cultural resonance of whatever is popular.
As with any craze, there are always pros and cons, with Pokemon Go it is getting people out of the house exploring their neighborhoods gathering with others and socializing in new ways. There is even an emerging market of players that are flipping their Pokemon Go accounts for profit. The cons are that some have already used it to exploit others such as in this news story where criminals used lures in secluded areas to attract players only to rob them.
It sounds like something straight out of science fiction but it’s closer to reality than we think. The look of that future is stunningly realized in this short film. It gives a chilling look at the potential an augmented reality gone wild world might have in store for us.
Much like Pokemon themselves, advertising has evolved from sponsored halftime shows during gladiator matches, to print, radio, television and the internet to our current mobile first age. It is better to embrace new technology and utilize it responsibly than ignore it. Because as long as no one is hurting themselves or anyone else in the process, people will hopefully discover more about others and the world around them.
How this new marketing avenue takes shape from here is open to speculation, but one thing is for sure, Pokemon Go is a game changer.