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Pokémon GO: 3 ways brands can leverage the augmented-reality smartphone phenomenon

Unless you’re a committed technophobe or a permanent resident of the Moon you’ll have heard about Pokémon GO.

An augmented-reality game that involves chasing and “capturing” imaginary creatures with your mobile phone may not immediately strike you as having anything to do with digital marketing, but there are actually some huge business opportunities to be had.

Pokémon GO is a smartphone game in which users collect Pokémon (colourful little creatures that you might remember from the 90s), hatch and train them, and battle other players. What makes this game so groundbreaking is that unlike most gaming apps, Pokémon GO turns the real world into a virtual hunting ground.

A Pokemon GO Zubat in the Castleford office

A Pokemon GO Zubat in the Castleford office

The Pokémon appear in places like your office, on the street, or even at your local coffee shop. They’re EVERYWHERE!!

Now, don’t be alarmed. That flying set of teeth was not really terrorising our office. Pokémon is location-based (uses your phone to work out where you are) and uses augmented-reality (super-imposes test, animations and other content on top of real objects when you look at them on your phone).

Players look at a map of their local area within the game and can see real-life landmarks alongside Pokémon Gyms, where players can battle other users, and Pokéstops, where players can collect more Pokéballs, snacks and medicine for their Pokémon.

Yep, it’s a crazy world out there at the moment.

So that explains the people frantically swiping their smartphone screens everywhere you look, but what does it all have to do with your business?

While it might be tempting to worry about the lost productivity as your staff chase Jigglypuffs and Zubats around your office, with just a bit of creativity and quick thinking you can easily work this phenomenon to your advantage.

How to capitalise on the ‘Poké-mania’

Brands should really be just as excited about Pokémon GO as the ever-growing community of players. Any online activity that looks free, gains a huge following and collects reams of data on its users eventually becomes a great marketing opportunity. Here are some tips:

1. Get involved in the conversation

Thanks to data collected by SimilarWeb, a company that provides website and mobile app measurement and tracking, some pretty amazing statistics have been revealed. Pokémon GO has now been downloaded over 7.5 million times in the US alone. It has been installed on more phones than the famous dating app Tinder (now that’s saying something) and has just overtaken both Twitter and Facebook in terms of daily users and minutes spent on the app.

This is definitely a trend that you want to get involved with. With the sheer amount of people that are talking about this game, there are opportunities for connecting with your audience that cannot be missed.

The first step will be to join conversations already happening on social media. If you scroll down any of your feeds right now on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform you are bound to see posts about Pokémon GO. Engage with your followers and comment on these posts to start conversations and make it aware that your brand understands its audience. There’s a good chance that your followers may have already checked in at or mentioned your business while doing their “training” or capturing, so responding to these conversations is another great way to connect with your prospects.

This is also a great time to start developing some content around this trending topic. Pokémon GO searches will be spiking right now as players trawl the web for tips, news and active conversations. If you can create some content around Pokémon GO that’s still relevant and useful to your audience you’re taking advantage of an opportunity to tap into this demand and maybe even rank for different keywords than the usual. The effect is twofold if you also share this content on your social platforms as it broadens the reach of your content and encourages sharing between followers.

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2. Sharing is caring

You may have heard about the latest update to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, which now determines a Facebook Page’s organic reach according to how many shares its posts gain from its followers. As long as users are sharing your content on Facebook you will be relatively unaffected by the algorithm change, but if your organic reach typically relies on Likes and comments then there will be a noticeable decrease in this organic reach and referral traffic.

So how do you get your followers to share your content? Write about topics that they want their friends to know about. People want to appear knowledgeable about what’s popular and trending, and they also want to share content that they know their friends will like. Creating blog posts around something as massively popular as Pokémon GO is sure to garner more shares if you can find a unique, interesting angle that offers real value.

This applies to any social platform, not just Facebook. Using popular hashtags on Twitter and Instagram will also ensure a wider audience sees your content by flagging it with people already looking for information on that topic.

3. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Your business may be a part of the game without you even realising it. It’s highly likely that there are Pokémon floating around your office or shopfront somewhere, but it’s also possible that your location may be a Pokéstop or a Pokémon Gym. You can ask someone who’s already playing, or just jump on the bandwagon and download the game to find out.

A huge number of businesses have found that they are indeed one of these popular locations for Pokémon GO players, typically from the hordes of people that tend to congregate around them. This is exactly how the game brings your audience to you.

Many businesses have capitalised on the extra attention in a number of creative and clever ways. Some have the Pokémon theme incorporated into their marketing tactics, offering Pokémon style food and drink specials. Others have used their social platforms to let their followers know if they happen to be a Pokéstop or a gym, to encourage more visits and a higher level of engagement on social media.

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However, to truly take advantage of what the game has to offer, your brand can purchase what’s known as ‘lures’ within the app, which attract the Pokémon to your location. Lures can be bought for approximately $1 and last for 30 minutes, so if you buy at least one and let all your social followers know about it, you can likely expect an influx of people to arrive at your doorstep imminently.

Once the players have finished their “training” they may want to stay around to sample your products. Even if they don’t, you’ve made an introduction for next time they want a product or service like yours. It’s a brilliant, yet cost-effective method of getting people to your location, and you can afford to do it all day long!

Niantic, the company behind Pokémon GO, recently announced plans to create ‘sponsored locations’, allowing businesses to pay to become a Pokéstop or Pokémon Gym. Up until now, despite many requests, no one other than Niantic has had any control over the locations. Once introduced, the sponsored locations will be charged on a cost-per-visit basis. The possibilities for both the game and for businesses are huge, now that we have seen just how truly mobilised marketing can be in conjunction with augmented-reality.

For a first-hand look at how the game works, check out the video by Niantic below:

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