Pokémon Go Finally Gets Augmented Reality Right
We here at Target Marketing have tried to get behind augmented reality (AR) on several occasions. QR Codes on the cover, Layar throughout the issue, some goofy stuff in our digital editions ...
I even once said, "Of course QR Codes are gonna work, it just makes sense!" Scott Stratten said they killed kittens. Turns out he was right.
So imagine my chagrin to see Pokémon — a bunch of Bulbasaurs and Jigglypuffs led by an electric rat — roll out an augmented reality experience that conquered the world in less than a week.
In less than a week, the free Pokémon Go app, available on Android, iOS and the Nintendo DS handheld game, is on its way past Twitter in active users, and already bigger than Tindr. (Does that mean Millennials prefer catching Charizards to dating?)
And the player base isn't so much kids (although there's a lot of them too), but young adults who grew up with the earlier Pokémon games.
What does all of that mean for marketers? Here are five things I've learned watching the electric yellow rat take over the world ... again.
1. There's a Way to do Augmented Reality Right
I think a lot of marketers have seen that, when it comes to augmented reality, just because you build it does not mean they'll come. The novelty of augmented reality isn't enough, and neither is getting a piece of your web content launched from a ketchup bottle or whatever else your trigger is.
Pokémon Go is a game that asks players to walk around outside to capture Pokémon hiding out in he world. And players are doing that! Social media is full of jokes about the fact that young adults are running around all over cities and the suburbs to catch Pokémon. It's working.
How is that different from what we did in Target Marketing magazine? Or even what Google offered with Google Glass? Well for starters it's an experience that is 100 percent designed to be augmented reality. Pokémon go doesn't treat AR as just a way to access existing content on a new device, it is an AR-only experience. If you want those Pokémon, you have to take your phone for a walk.
It's also a very novel experience that's put together well. Nantic Labs, the company that actually developed the game for Nintendo, has been doing similar games for a long time. They know how to deliver an experience that gets the best out of the platform. That's essential to a successful AR experience.
2. Grant the Wish
An article on Vox made a great point about why this game is such a hit with young adults:
Pokémon Go is an attempt at realizing what fans always wanted from Pokémon ... Since the games came out for Nintendo’s handheld consoles, fans all around the world have shared a dream: What if Pokémon weren’t limited to the games’ world? What if they were real and inhabited our world? What if we could all be Ash Ketchum, the TV show’s star trainer, who wanders the world in his quest to catch them all and earn his honors by defeating all the gym leaders? I want a Pikachu in real life, dammit!
—"Pokémon Go Explained," German Lopez, Vox
Every market has an ungranted wish. If you can find that wish and make it come true, they will love you for it.
Pokémon Go lets fans who grew up watching these cartoons and playing these games break that wall they never could and hunt Pokémon in real life.
What does your target market want that no one's ever been able to give them? Maybe it's not a specific thing, but a way to access a product or service, like Uber putting taxis at the tap of an app. Maybe it's an experience they could never have before, like Pokémon Go.
Identify that wish and think hard about how you could do it. You may have five or 10 years of new technology to make something happen that no one realized could be done before.
3. No, You Can't Buy a Pokéstop
This is a little heartbreaking, but you cannot request, suggest or purchase a rare pokémon, pokéstop or pokégym — physical places players visit to collect items and complete challenges in the game — for your store location.
The groundwork for Pokémon Go's mapping was laid by another Nantic game called Ingress. Ingress players visit significant real world locations to open and control portals, and it has a function that allows players to tell Nantic what spots are interesting. It also gathered a ton of data about locations players commonly visited. That data now feeds the mapping logic used to place all this pokéstuff all over the world, and Nantic isn't taking requests to alter that at this time.
However, there is a good chance you have some sort of pokéstop near you ...
4. There Is Still a Marketing Opportunity in Pokémon Go
Many, many storefronts have Pokéstops near enough that players can access form inside the store — stops have a radius of about 50 feet, so it doesn't necessarily have to be in your store to benefit your store. A lucky few have pokégyms, which are even bigger draws. Some marketers are already taking advantage of these places.
Forbes has an interesting story about Huge Cafe in Atlanta, which actually has access to two pokéstops from inside its coffee shop. The owner spent real money in the game to buy lures, which allow those pokéstops to attract more pokémon, and Pokémon Go players. So far he's spent $50 on lure, and couldn't be happier with the investment.
Eater.com has a broader article about how restaurants in general are dealing with the influx of Pokémon players, including some good and bad habits from multiple locations.
Whether you start baiting pokéstops, add a menu item or swag for Pokémon players, or even just hang a sign saying they're welcome (or that pokémon and the bathrooms are for paying customers only), retail locations have a lot of opportunities to capitalize on this gaming trend.
5. Native Advertising Is Unexplored, but Potentially Huge
Nantic's games are generally free to play and funded through optional in-app purchases of things like the lures I mentioned above. They don't do a lot of in-game advertising, and to my knowledge Nintendo has never done in-game advertising.
But wow is there a native advertising opportunity being missed here.
The advertising could take a few forms, and they don't need to include any in-game sponsorships, which might ruin the player experience. Simply being able to apply to have a pokéstop or pokégym on your site could be a huge money maker for them and the marketers using it.
There's an even bigger opportunity in being able to pay to have a rare pokémon show up at your location. Pokémon are collectible, and the best ones are hard to find. The chance to tell people they'll be able to catch one at your grand opening, black Friday sale or other event could bring in a lot of on-demand foot traffic.
There's no guarantee Pokémon Go will continue to be a hit next year, or even next month. But the concept has been proven. We can have augmented reality experiences people actually want to experience, and they offer ample marketing opportunities.
The only question is, will you be able to catch them all?