Is Pokémon Go the next great experiential marketing tool?

Pokemon Go

By now I’m sure you’ve seen them; hordes of Pokémon Go users shuffling slowly through the streets, their heads turned down - eyes transfixed to their phone, raising them only to hastily fling a Pokéball at their next prized Pokémon.

It looks eerily like a scene out of the Walking Dead.

These activities are happening across the globe, with the number of daily users estimated to be close to 25 million in the US alone. Perhaps even more important, 7 out of 10 people are returning to the app the day after downloading it, a number that is double the average retention rate in the mobile gaming industry.

With this in mind, it is impossible to deny that Pokémon Go is not just another game but a veritable phenomenon (or should we say, Pokenomenon).

The question is, for curious marketers and cunning business owners; does this new craze represent an exciting marketing opportunity? While still in its early days, all indications suggest that with the right approach, Pokémon Go could be the first in a long line of ‘augmented reality’ technologies capable of being a legitimate experiential marketing tool.

So, how to leverage this new tech craze?

First, a quick backgrounder; for the uninitiated (or the uninterested) Pokémon Go is a game for mobile devices in which players roam the real world hunting and catching virtual creatures called Pokémon. The aim of the game is to catch all 150 species of Pokémon and use the strongest ones to battle other players.

In the short time since its release, numerous small businesses have utilised ‘PokéStops’, which are landmarks within the game, to boost sales and foot traffic.

According to the New York Post, the owner of L'inizio Pizza Bar in Long Island recently discovered his restaurant was a designated PokéStop. Upon making this discovery he promptly purchased “lure modules” - an in-game item that attracts rare, more desirable Pokémon within a small radius. This business strategy attracted enthusiastic players to the store, increasing their sales by 75% over the weekend. The total cost of this in-game investment? Just US$10 dollars.

A little closer to home, the effects of this phenomenon can be seen in Perth’s own King’s Park where almost 2000 players were seen strolling up and down Fraser’s Avenue – on a Monday night no less - too enraptured by the game to notice the spectacular view peeking out from their periphery. Catching all those Pokémon is evidently hungry work as the Botanical Café now has the Sisyphean task of serving food to this massive influx of people.

At its core, this is what makes Pokémon Go such a powerful marketing tool. When you consider its ability to mobilise consumers, the level of engagement required to play the game and the functionality of mobile devices, its potential to engage consumers using “momentum marketing” is plain to see.

In all reality, Pokémon Go could indeed fizzle out in the weeks to come, going the way of hundreds of games and technological fads before it. Yet in the few short weeks since its release, Pokémon Go has proven that augmented reality and mobile games have the ability to truly mobilise consumers, opening up new channels for businesses to interact with customers, even boosting engagement with their brick and mortar establishments.

The challenge for the game’s creators now will be to keep players engaged long after they’ve managed to “catch ‘em all”.

Written by Connor Patmore.