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Understanding the Business of Pokemon Go

And that’s Pokémon Go.-

Niantic’s latest augmented reality game was unleashed upon the U.S. on July 7th, and has since become a mobile phenomenon of epic proportions. Hoards of people from all walks of life are seen each day on city streets, faces pointed down at their phones, frowning in concentration while a telltale index finger swipes up.

So far it seems that neither battery drain nor constant server crashes can impact the game’s incredible growth. It has already surpassed Tinder in download numbers and Twitter in percentage of daily active users.

But it’s not just Pokémon Go players that are getting in on the trend. Soon after the game went viral, companies big and small started using the app to market to the excited populace–despite a lack of advertising opportunities on the app itself.

In this blog post, we’ll be covering the best Pokémon Go marketing tactics, tips for businesses, and the road ahead.

The Very Best (Like No One Ever Was)

The popularity of the game was not the only unexpected result from its release. Whereas most video games complement a sedentary environment, Pokémon Go encourages players to go outside and explore, perhaps even interact with other players, in order to capture more Pokémon, find PokéStops and win battles in Pokémon Gyms. Some users have actually reported benefits to their physical and mental health.

Many companies have made the connection between the game’s exploratory nature and potential to increase sales. In order to attract the Pokémon Go crowd, businesses–from local restaurants to giant corporations–have displayed some impressive acts of creativity.

These are the 3 we enjoyed most:

1) Amazon

They saw the opportunity and they took it. Amazon paid homage to the game’s notorious battery-draining quality with an entertaining promotional tweet. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t considering buying portable battery chargers for the sake of extra game time.

2) Argo Tea

Maybe we’re suckers for puns, but that’s not the only thing we think Argo Tea did right with this promotional email. The added discount, and the fact that participating locations will activate lures (more on that later) is a great way to provide value to potential customers.

3) Muncie Animal Shelter

The Muncie Animal Shelter succeeded in using the Pokémon Go trend to recruit dog walkers for their shelter with a post that attracted over 10k likes, over 25k shares and thousands of comments. A great message and a great cause.


There’s really no reason NOT to use Pokémon Go in your marketing strategy. In fact, had this come out sooner, we definitely would have added it to our list of ways to Boost Brand Awareness in 2016. With Pokémon Go in your repertoire, added foot traffic is a near-sure thing, with increased potential for conversions. There’s a reason why even churches are distributing tips on how to use Pokémon Go to their advantage–which, if you happen to own a church, are worth looking at.

Not a church? Well then definitely check out these tips:

1. Find out if you’re a PokéStop or Gym

 Pokémon Go players visit PokéStops to load up on Pokéballs and other items that help them advance in the game, and Gyms are where they go to battle and train with the Pokémon they’ve caught. Real life locations that have been marked as PokéStops and Gyms have, it appears, been assigned as such at random–though certain landmarks, like churches and parks, seem to have better odds.

These spots attract significant foot traffic. Even though you cannot arrange to become a PokéStop or Gym (for now at least), it’s worth your time to go on the app and find out if luck is on your side.

2. Lures

So you haven’t been blessed with a PokéStop status by the Pokémon Go gods. Well, you’re in good company.


Our own office, for example, does not have the privilege of being a PokéStop. Those blue posts showing up sporadically are the nearby PokéStops, and those not-so-close PokéStops with cherry blossoms are those that have lures activated.

What are lures? Lures are items you can purchase in the game which, when used, attract Pokémon to your nearest PokéStop for 30 minutes. Imagine Pokémon are cats and lures are like catnip. The neighborhood cats will show up, and cat lovers will be sure to follow.

And it’s worth the cost. Inc. did the math and figured out that 21 eight-packs of lures, amounting to 84 hours of lure activation, will cost you $1.19 an hour. Not exactly a major setback to anyone’s budget in exchange for more people showing up at your door.

3. PokéPromos

It’s easier to attract people to your business than it is to ensure they stay. One way to get more Pokémon Go visitors to actually make purchases rather than stand around searching for Pokémon is to use the power of promotions. Here’s one unique example that’s been floating around Reddit:



We realize that not every business can afford to give so many items for free just like that, but any kind of added value to customers will help. Promote a discount for players–battery charging stations, anything that won’t take much away from your business but will catch a gamer’s eye. If you’re game-savvy, find out if your lures tend to attract a certain type of Pokémon–the rarer the better–and promote that!

4. Stay Social

Another great idea is to incorporate the game into your social media platforms, and use it to encourage customer interactivity.

For example, use Pokémon in your Snapchat geofilters, or make Instagram posts with the Pokémon that have shown up in your store/restaurant/office. Encourage customers to share the location and the Pokémon they acquired while in your space. Those kinds of engagement can snowball into some amazing opportunities for your business.

Road Ahead

 When something this viral happens seemingly out of thin air, it’s easy to assume that it will come and go. However, our opinion is that Pokémon Go is more than just a trend.

Already, a rumor that McDonald’s would be the first company to have access to a sponsored location on the game has been confirmed as fact, thanks to Gizmodo’s examination of the game’s code. According to TechCrunch, McDonald’s thousands of locations across Japan will be turned into Gyms.

This is only the beginning. The option for companies to pay to become gyms will likely gain traction, and already “Cost Per Visit” has been brought up as the appropriate metric. Similarly to Cost Per Click, companies will be pay based on the amount of visits they get from potential customers through being a sponsored location.

Additionally, the success of this augmented reality game could potentially cause a spike in other uses for augmented reality. After all, the excitement over this game comes in part from its interaction with reality. Players walk through real life locations (some they may not have even known about before the game), capturing Pokémon that appear, through the screen, to exist in our world. As this post by the American Marketing Association surmises, it is not long before companies and marketers find their own ways to make use of the technology. It will be truly fascinating to see how far AR will go.

What actions have you taken as part of this Pokémon craze? Have they helped your business? Do you think the opportunities for businesses will grow or will this “new frontier” prove to be just a fad?
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