Pokémon GO: Setting the Stage for Augmented Reality (AR) Marketing

Pokémon GO: Augmented Reality Innovations in Digital Marketing 

Pokémon GO is an augmented reality smartphone game based on the immensely popular animated series, Pokémon. Since its launch in July of 2016, the application has become a critical and cultural phenomenon, lifting Nintendo’s market value by $7.1 billion and has surpassed the ranks of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat in the Google Play and Apple App stores.

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Regardless which tactics are used to attract consumers, one thing is clear: Pokémon GO is paving the way for augmented reality marketing. Historically, consumers have been slow and hesitant to adopt new marketing technologies pushed heavily out of the gate – think for example, QR codes. What Pokémon GO has been able to do is personalize a new marketing technology so much so that consumers do not realize they are being marketed too. This is promising news to marketers because, as augmented reality continues to grow at a staggering pace over the next couple of years – to an expected $4 billion by 2018 — consumers will be more primed for future implementations of marketing through augmented reality.

Using augmented reality HUD (heads-up display), Pokémon GO users can capture digital Pokémon around their communities, collect items found at “Pokéstops”, and battle other users at community “gyms”. Both Pokéstops and gyms were pre-determined – public spaces such as parks, landmarks, and churches – upon release of the app. Some small businesses were also included in the Pokéstops mix, which has significantly increased foot traffic and sales to their locations. As a result, more small businesses are now looking to become Pokéstop and capitalize on the popularity of the app. At one point in July 2016, Pokémon GO opened up a request form for businesses to become Pokéstops, but it has since been removed. Many have suggested that Nintendo is acting strategically, given the impending release of advertising opportunities on the application. In the meantime, non-Pokestop businesses are using strategies such as discounts to attract players of the game.

What Marketers Need to Know About Pokémon GO

As of now, there are limited paid opportunities on Pokémon GO, but new opportunities will be released soon. Currently, marketers only have the ability to use “lures” – an in-app purchase that costs $1/piece – to attract Pokémon to a Pokéstop and entice all users of the game. Lures offer existing Pokéstop businesses the opportunity to drive even more foot traffic to their locations. Aside from “lures,” businesses have found creative ways to infuse Pokémon GO likeness – things like discounts and content strategies – to drive organic traffic.

Nevertheless, Niantic – the Google-owned developer behind Pokémon GO – is reportedly releasing sponsored locations that will be available soon, with McDonald’s rumored to have a first go. Moreover, it has been reported that businesses will be charged on a cost-per-visit basis, similar to the cost-per-click used in Google’s paid search platforms.

That said, marketers may be executing Pokémon GO campaigns over the course of the next few months, but it is important to note that usage and excitement over the app could wane. Also, marketing on the application may not align with all client business strategies, which should be a consideration before pursuing a campaign as well.

Nevertheless, Pokémon GO has potentially set a bigger stage for augmented reality, and given us a glimpse into a more robust digital marketing future.

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