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How Pokemon Go Just Created The Next Big Marketing Channel

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Pokemon Go is a worldwide hit. It’s been out for just a handful of days and anyone who’s followed the game’s meteoric rise to the top of the App Stores can attest to that. You can’t go on social media without seeing someone’s latest catch or newest evolution or, and let’s hope this doesn’t continue, dangerous driving activities while using the app.

Niantic and The Pokemon Company have a hit on their hands, without a doubt. They will make a ton of money and having already paid for some in-game PokeCoins, I have absolutely no problem with that. The app, while still a little buggy, is revolutionary and captivating, and for lifelong Pokemon Fans like myself, accurate. Even the original sounds the Pokemon make from the games the 90s can be found when you catch a new species. Awesome!

But hundreds of millions of dollars of Microtransactions aside, Niantic and The Pokemon Company have something way, way, way bigger. If you thought it was odd seeing adults playing this game, wait until the businesses come around.

Pokemon Go has created a brand new marketing channel.

OK so hear me out. Remember tech-darling FourSquare? SXSW 2010 came around and the internet couldn’t stop raving over FourSquare and location based apps.

Wow! You can be the mayor of McDonalds if you check in daily for the next six months. Sweet badge you got there. If they only knew about Pokemon Gym Badges…

Fast forward to July 2016 and in just 72 hours, Pokemon Go has achieved what FourSquare and it’s millions of dolllars of funding, press, and promotion could not. A great reason for users to actually use the app!

So where’s the marketing channel?

I was driving around Los Angeles yesterday and had a little extra time so I popped open my Pokemon Go app to see any nearby destinations that might be worthwhile. PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms lit up my Pokemon Go app, but one specifically grabbed my attention. It was a PokeStop nearby and it looked like every other PokeStop, well, except for the thousands of flowers flowing out of it. Here’s the actual screenshot.

pokego-1

First, let me tell you what a PokeStop is. It’s a physical, real world location that is specifically called out on the map inside Pokemon Go. PokeStops are places for trainers to come and restock their supplies and are often tied to map landmarks, like cool touristy spots (think the Hollywood Walk of Fame) or popular restaurants/bars. These apparently are crowdsourced from Google Maps data (Niantic is owned by Google), so I’m not exactly sure if/how you can get a PokeStop added at this time.

So back to the flower-spitting PokeStop. This is actually the effect of an in-game action called a “Lure.” Without getting too nerdy, basically it increases the amount of Pokemon that are around a PokeStop. A player plays a “Lure” for the benefit of everyone around them – meaning everyone at and around that PokeStop will benefit from any user implementing a Lure. That is what I saw on my screen and of course was immediately attracted to it.

I pulled up to the spot and it became immediately clear just how powerful this could be for a marketing tool.

Here’s what the Pokemon Go app looked like as I arrived. Notice the pink oval with the name “Rhaeman” in it. That is the user who set the Lure. Replace that with the bar’s name and boom – branded promotion inside Pokemon Go!

poke-go2 poke-go3

The outside patio of this location (it’s a bar/restaurant in North Hollywood) was jam packed with 20-somethings (all on their phones). The area outside the patio also had a handful of stragglers that stopped by just to get in on the lure. Now, it’s not strange for 20-somethings to have their heads buried in their phones, but when you see people rotating around in circles swiping up on their phones, you know they’re playing Pokemon Go.

This was the scene at this PokeStop – 30+ people playing Pokemon Go, with the majority of them seated at the restaurant. Anything else you can think of that happens when you sit at a restaurant?

Now, I’m pretty sure the bar had nothing to do with this, but I’m very sure they didn’t mind the added business.

“Hey honey, let’s stop and get a few beers as I catch these Pokemon.”
“Sounds great, let’s grab a bite to eat too.”

Do you hear that sound? It’s a cash register cha-chinging. I actually hear two.

One from the restaurant and one over at Niantic’s headquarters.

Why do businesses pay for marketing? To attract their customers.
Why do local businesses pay for local marketing? To attract nearby customers.
Why do businesses love native forms of advertising? Because consumers react negatively to traditional marketing (i.e. banners, billboards, popups, etc).

Niantic and Pokemon Go can offer all of that to businesses in an environment where their customers are already overwhelmingly associating with a positive connotation.   Maybe the ability to pay to add a PokeStop or pay to brand/sponsor a PokeStop. I can already see Nike sponsoring the PokeStop next to the Staples Center or Toyota sponsoring the PokeStop next to their dealership in Glendale.

Hey Niantic, Facebook added Ads to their beloved, ad-free platform and it’s doing pretty well for them I’d say. Not saying I’d love ads in Pokemon Go, but I could easily see “Billboards” being added in-game with some sponsorship tie-in.

We already love everything about Pokemon Go. We’re already coming to your businesses to catch the Pokemon around or re-stock at the PokeStop. We are already congregating in mass at PokeStops with Lures.

We are ready to fully immerse ourselves in this Augmented Reality masterpiece that is Pokemon Go and Niantic seemingly has everything setup for branded integrations. The screenshot from above literally shows the name and picture of the establishment – automatically. It’s literally just too easy for businesses to get involved.

How Can Businesses Take Advantage Of Pokemon Go Today?

Let me be clear. Niantic is not proposing this and I have no insider knowledge to think that they will. But they definitely should!

If you’re a business that has a physical location, first (and immediately), go download the Pokemon Go app and see if your business is lucky enough to be a PokeStop. I find it hilarious that businesses have been seen posting signs like “No Pokemon Go” or “Pokemon for paying customers only.”

If your business’s location is a PokeStop, consider yourself lucky. You just gained a free, powerful local marketing tool.

Embrace this ASAP. Get in the conversation on Social Media. Even a basic promotion will work wonders. Remember, there were 30+ people at this location just from seeing a completely unannounced Lure placed at the PokeStop. By the way, in terms of costs, these are laughable. A lure costs less than a $0.50 to implement! You can also get Lures through playing the game, but for businesses, I believe they’ll just swallow the costs upfront.

How about a 10% off deal if you catch a Pokemon at the location? Or maybe Buy One Get One Happy Hour plus the benefit of an active Lure throughout the entire happy hour? Maybe show your Pokemon Go app at the door to get a free dessert. The possibilities are truly endless.

If you don’t have a PokeStop at your location, there’s ways to get involved too. Want some extra local brand awareness? Train your Pokemon Team to an elite level and dominate a local gym. Set your Trainer Name to your business and every time someone checks out a local gym, they’ll see Steve’s Burgers as the Gym Leader (replace with your business name, of course).

How about just hosting a gathering? In 90 minutes of walking Ventura Blvd last night, I was stopped 11 different times by people who were also playing the game. “Pokemon Goooooooooo” they’d shout as I walked by, giving them a big smile and a thumbs up.

Pokemon is a pastime and we want to enjoy it together. Give us a place to do that and we’ll buy all the beer and wings you can cook up.

Are you a business that wants to work up a cool Pokemon Go promotion? Contact me ASAP I’d love to brainstorm with you.

Will This Actually Happen?

Niantic is a very forward-thinking company and their original app, Ingress, which Pokemon Go is closely based off, has a history of some very interesting local promotions. They’ve organized town-wide events where all players in a geographic area (think town or greater metropolitan area) literally get together in one spot, like “real life” not virtually, and accomplish a massive task. In Ingress, it could be battling for capture the flag. In Pokemon, it could be actual team battles.

The point here is that Niantic did not just build Pokemon Go to be about interactions between the user and Pokemon. They built it for the bigger picture. They built it to mobilize hundreds if not thousands of like-minded people and that is something every business needs to pay attention to.

What do you think? Do you see businesses embracing Pokemon Go for local marketing?

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justin

justin

Justin Cener is a lifelong entrepreneur and proud "crazy cat guy." After launching Crowd Seats, a Groupon-inspired technology startup, Cener sold the business to a venture-backed competitor in Hollywood, CA and moved onto Shopify. On top of running numerous successful stores, Justin mentors countless students and runs a handful of high profile celebrity Shopify stores using the same strategies he teaches in his Bootcamp Coaching Programs.