If you’re anything like me, you’re completely baffled at the popularity of Pokémon GO, the new augmented reality game from Niantic/Nintendo.
I’m by no means a Luddite when it comes to digital games. I play them, I make them and I teach kids how to make them. I have developed for Google Cardboard and love that virtual/augmented reality is finding its feet after its false start in the 1980s.
But as Pokémon GO exploded into the social consciousness in the past week, I shook my head in wonder at the astonishing numbers of grown adults chasing virtual monsters around the Valley. Our Slack channel at work is awash with only semi-ironic references to weirdly named creatures and several high-value (so I’m told) Pokémon have been captured in our break room – but none of this am I able to care about. I simply don’t have the part of the brain that gets Pokémon.
What I do care about however is the way that I’m seeing Brisbane businesses respond cleverly to this emerging social craze, and the lessons that can be learnt across marketing, customer engagement and digital strategy.
One of our local coffee shops has embraced the mania by setting Pokémon lures at the Pokéstop next to his business to increase the likelihood of the virtual creatures spawning there. Of course he’s not particularly interested in attracting Pokémon – they are just the bait that draws more of the coffee-loving public through his front door. He recognises the signs (head down, phone out, one finger flicking) and offers them a cappuccino with a Pokémon-themed chocolate dust icon on top.
He’s not alone. There are now Pokémon-themed pub crawls, menus and tours. Screen captures of rare Pokémon in various premises are being leveraged to attract traffic and drive social media. Show the app to get a discount. Highest value Pokémon captured in store each day gets a free something – better leave your email address so we can contact you! Tweet out that you’ll be setting a lure in 30 minutes, and watch for the flashmob.
By using the in-app purchasing, you can even keep a lure up permanently during business hours for about $20 a day when purchased in bulk. The increase in foot traffic might make that the best business investment you’ve made all year.
If things continue as they are, I’ll not be surprised to see commercial rents go up next to prominent Pokéstops or Gyms (locations where Pokémon can be more easily found or trained). At the very least, it’s another point in a building’s favour if the tenant is likely to rely on walk-up traffic. Heads up, real estate agents.
Do you operate a mobile business or stall? Find a cluster of Pokéstops/Gyms, set up and throw out your lures. Do you make or provide anything that appeals to the 15-35 market? Get on Pokémon GO and get creative. Are you lucky enough that your business is a Pokémon Gym? Help your customers get competitive as they battle for control of it.
Players with draining batteries need somewhere to charge their phones, and sit while they charge – which your business can provide while they consume your product or service. Players out in the sun need sunscreen, hats, water and even ointment for their sore legs.
The key lesson for me is that my preferences, likes and dislikes may have absolutely no relation to those of my customers, and that we must see things through their eyes, their desires and their needs to attract and win their business. If there is any way your business can capitalise on increased numbers of people in a certain location, there is a good chance Pokémon GO can help – as ridiculous as that might sound.
Pokémon may be a transient fad, but it’s one of the most viral of crazes the world has seen. Even if a year from now it’s in the cupboard under the stairs with the yo-yos, loom bands, hula hoops and lava lamps, the customer you win today will still be around.
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James Radvan is the General Manager at Speedwell, one of Australia’s largest and most experienced web and mobile studios. While he now calls Brisbane home, his software career has taken him to the US, UK and Sweden, in everything from startups to multinationals.
At his happiest building things, he is a coder, project manager, musician, maker, painter and inveterate tinkerer. Having started his own son and daughter on the path to being code ninjas, James can be found on Saturdays mentoring at Chermside CoderDojo.