What do U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Alberta Travel, city libraries and bars, restaurants and tee shirt boutiques have in common?
That would be Pokémon Go, a smartphone video game that uses Google Maps technology. The augmented reality game pinpoints locations in the real world on a map shown on a player’s phone. The app marks different Pokémon that can be captured, “PokéStops,” where users can score in-game items, and gyms where players’ Pokémon can duke it out for control. Across Canada, some businesses are getting in on the fun.
The game is so popular that roughly 3 in 10 Canadian players, called “trainers,” say it’s taking over their lives, according to a recent Global News Ipsos poll. The poll found that the same number of players admitted to skipping day-to-day activities, such as working out, in order to hunt Pokémon.
On the other hand, they are getting exercise. The poll showed that the average player has walked about 13 kilometres. It isn’t unusual to walk 5 kilometres to hatch one egg. (Trainers place Eggs in an incubator and walk a specific distance in order for them to hatch into a Pokémon.)
People aged 18 to 34 years are by far the most likely to have downloaded the app, followed by those aged 13 to 17. So it seems a good idea for businesses to target Pokémon-related marketing at Millennials, whose spending power continues to grow (by 2017, they are expected to spend more than $200 million a year.)
If you run a business, this newest global craze can work to your advantage. Some businesses, as well as government agencies and libraries, are using the smart phone game as an inexpensive marketing tool. Pokémon puts its critters in the real world and you may be able to use this to attract customers.
Here are a few examples of how the game has worked its magic for various entities:
There was even a small international incident when U.S. Border Patrol Agents apprehended two juveniles crossing the border illegally while playing the game. The agents found them wandering into the state of Montana, apparently unaware of where they were. The kids were later reunited with their mother at a nearby Border Patrol Station.
So how can your business take advantage of this inexpensive marketing powerhouse? Here’s a primer to help you get your feet wet:
As an owner, you’ll want to find out if your business is at, or near, a PokéStop. To do this, download the free app, open it at your business and look for a big blue circle in your immediate vicinity.
If you have the good fortune of being situated in or around a PokéStop or Gym, you have a major marketing tool at your fingertips. Take advantage of it and drop a lure. These increase both the rate of Pokémon generation and foot traffic around your establishment.
The lures last for half an hour and cost around $1.39. You also can let trainers know on your social media outlets that your business is near a PokéStop and lure them with discounts if they drop a lure at your business.
Trainers rush to active lures and while they’re waiting for Pokémon to show up they may become bored, tired, hungry or thirsty. You can see the advantage there.
Lures may currently be one of your most important purchases. Coffee shops, ice cream parlours, restaurants with patios, pizza places and other places catering to impulse buyers have been successful with this strategy.
But these aren’t the only businesses that can benefit. In New York City, for example, a realty group has started listing properties with the power of Pokémon. One ad reads, in part: $9,500/5br – 1500ft2 – near major pokestop**.
Word of advice: As the radius of a lure is extensive, players can catch Pokémon without entering your business. Consider putting up some signage, such as, “Catch a Pokémon inside and get a 10% discount.”
Gyms can become particularly busy spots, and owners may need to be creative. Trainers often join others to form teams to battle other teams for control of the gym. Battling teams stick around for a while as they win, lose or win the site multiple times. But they tend to be very preoccupied with the game.
Consider a sandwich board to keep score and announce that members of the team currently controlling the gym get discounts. You can also take screenshots of the game and post them on your social media with hashtags, such as #pokemongo and #pokemon to attract trainers who might not otherwise know about your business.
If you aren’t at either a stop or gym, set up an event, such as a barbecue or a sidewalk sale, and advertise it, noting that there are Pokémon nearby. Both the Edmonton Eskimos and the Toronto Argonauts hosted pregame events and set off lures to attract fans and Pokémons.
Be aware that not all businesses, homeowners and others are happy with the foot traffic the game creates. The game’s creator did remove at least one PokéStop from a socially sensitive monument and one medical facility reportedly has asked that it be removed from the app and is attempting to ban players.
With this popular augmented reality game, people are getting out of their houses, walking around and socializing. At some point, they’re going to want to make a purchase, get a bite to eat or grab a drink — and they’re going to want to talk about how they’ve been playing. If you’re a business owner, consider taking advantage of this craze.