Pokemon Go is now used as a technique for local business marketing

The Evolution of Pokémon Go in Local Business Marketing

Maybe you’ve been so geeked from the release of the Pokémon Go app that you haven’t slept, showered, or fed yourself in days. Or maybe you’re so sick of hearing and reading about this digital craze that you put warning signs outside of your yard to deter the hardcore gamers from your home or office. Or even still, you could be a closet nerd who plays in secret but hopes that everyone thinks they are texting on their phone and definitely not catching a Vulpix.

Regardless of who you are or how you feel about it, this cultural phenomenon is changing the technological world in more ways than one. Even if Pokémon Go itself proves to be just another fad, it’s shaping how businesses will be marketing to users of augmented reality for years to come.

In case you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, Pokémon Go is an in-app game for smartphones that allows users to interact with the public world around them based off of geographical location. This is probably why you’ve seen more mobs of phone zombies downtown than usual.

So how can a game with currently zero option for display advertisement possibly be the ticket for local business marketing? As a digital strategist for SWELL, I’ve already come across clients asking the same question; “How can we jump onto this thing and make it work for us?” Understanding how the game operates, who is participating, and what motivates players is the key to answering that. If you’re a local business the following is for you.


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

The most basic thing you can do right away is to work with the popularity of the game, not fight against it. The first thing I would suggest doing is either joining the game yourself or having an employee join. This will give you a good layout of how the game works and what other game users (your potential customers) are experiencing.

You’ll notice that there are marks called “Pokéstops” on the game map highlighting real life areas around your town. These are important for businesses and you should look to see if your business is either one of these marks or if there are any in close proximity to your location. If either is the case – that is excellent news for you.

Dropping Lures

Assuming you’re a business that either is a Pokéstop or has one near them, you can use this feature to your advantage. Using your own pokémon go account you can then offer to drop what are known as “lures” for players nearby. This creates a 30 minute window for making rare collectable pokémon to appear. Active lures are visible from far distances to surrounding players which attracts them to that location.

Grand Rapids Public Library pokestop

In our city of Grand Rapids, Michigan the local public library uses this marketing tactic by blasting their social media with an announcement of dropping a lure at a certain time of day. The idea behind it is to attract visitors to the location in the hopes that while players are there they check out books or bring others along with them who will.  

Offer Discounts or Swag

Another popular tactic that is not dependent upon geographical location of your storefront is to offer discounts to players or free merchandise or swag (stuff we all get). I’ve seen local shops put signs out either advertising as “pokémon go friendly” or offering discounts on orders for certain team members. You could also find out what types of pokémon are available to “catch” outside your location and offer giveaways after showing proof of capture. The whole idea is to motivate gamers to play near you so when they are ready to make a purchase they are already near you. (Great tactic for restaurants!)

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Make Your Business A Part of the Conversation

Don’t make the mistake of turning your nose up at the “Go-ers”. While the franchise was popular in the late 90s to early 2000’s, it doesn’t mean the app is downloaded by only the millennial generation. 40% of adult pokémon go players are 25 or above and 60% of all app users are playing daily. This is important to understand because the demographic of players is cross-generational and often younger players are escorted around the city by their parents or guardians.  

Even if giving away free items or playing the game yourself doesn’t sound like a route you’re willing to take, just being a participant in the conversation online to show your awareness of the overnight sensation can benefit your local business. Social media, outdoor signage, or other marketing material can be the difference maker of where players may choose to do business.

What the Future Holds

The reason the augmented reality app is a game changer for local businesses is because it doesn’t solely cater to big businesses with display advertising. The game itself is literally tied to real life locations in every consumer’s daily life – motivating them to get out in the public world (near you) and “catch them all”.

As updates continue to release with the mobile application and further development occurs with the game, there will be many more options for local business to market with. I’m sure features much like the “lure” will come about to work with. So try to consider this gaming style an opportunity rather than an annoyance.