In the world of connected marketing the opportunities presented by Virtual and Augmented Reality (AR) aren’t a complete mystery. We’ve already encountered examples of digitally-enhanced realities at work, and we’ve all been waiting to see how they’ll pay off in the real world, as used by real people.
We’re now starting to get an idea. With the recent release of Pokemon Go, AR has exploded into the public consciousness in a big way. Sure, catching Pikachu is never going to be less than awesome, but the really exciting part for marketers is that this game is proving to have significant real-world impact.
Turns out these Pokemon are driving significant foot traffic, and even increased spend. In a nutshell, there’s a better chance of catching Pokemon in more populated areas, and a higher concentration of the Pokestops that players flock to. There are also items you can use to attract even more people to these areas ($1 for 30 minutes of guaranteed Pokeswarming, why wouldn’t you?) If that’s not enough excitement Niantic’s CEO recently announced that sponsored locations are set to be introduced – basically in-game advertising for brands who aren’t conveniently located near stops or spawn points, or who are keen to offer incentives for a business boost.
In addition growing number of stores have been actively – amusingly - promoting their resident Pokemon or Pokestops to encourage visits. Which, given that one of the aims of physical location-dependent businesses is to make the in-store experience awesome, seems like it might be a winning strategy. While not everyone who visits off the back of the game will buy something, that’s nothing new in the world of store promotions – and the purchase is the ultimate goal, not the entirety of the experience. The promise of a digital-lead real-world activity like Pokemon Go is that it results in more information on more people, which presents exciting possibilities to brands that are able to capture it and personalize experiences at least in part through digital activity data.
What happens when the Pokemon go?
Take away the game-specific elements and we’re basically looking at some very savvy location-based mobile marketing. By getting on board with connected tech brands have more opportunity to engage people when they’re nearby because there are simply more devices being actively used. And since location has to be enabled to play, brands also now get the chance to reach people who would otherwise have those services disabled. As we know by now, the more data you have on people the better job you can do of reaching them. The potential for data collection with this kind of connected experience is huge: Pokemon Go is the biggest mobile game in US history, with over 20 million daily active users in the US alone.
But is it really worth the hype it’s generating? After all AR/VR is largely unproven in the retail world, and some are already declaring Pokemon Go just another fad that will quickly fade into obscurity.
Leaving aside the fact the game hasn't yet launched in all countries, Pokemon itself is 20 years old so has a certain stickability. Pokemon Go has had a material impact on Nintendo’s share price (and probably more importantly, cultural relevance) despite the fact the company doesn't actually make the game. And game developer Niantic’s previous AR venture Ingress is also still going strong after almost three years, without the massive Pokemachine’s frenzied PR push.
For now we just have to wait and see how it all plays out. But even if/when the Pokemon themselves pass us by, there’s no denying this latest release has exposed millions of previously unaware consumers to the possibilities of AR. The really interesting question is not how quickly the Pokemon buzz will die, but what comes next? Where will connected experiences take us now that we’ve all had a taste? And which brands are going to pick up this proverbial Pokeball and run with it (sorry)?