For the last few weeks, smartphone users around the globe have been united by one obsession: catching as many virtual creatures as they can via Pokémon Go.
Having already achieved more downloads in its launch week than any other app so far — and superseded the popularity of both Facebook and Snapchat — the game is on course to hit the milestone of 100 million users only two months after its release. As a result, it’s no surprise that key players across the advertising technology landscape are increasingly considering Pokémon Go a promising new way to reach and engage audiences on an unprecedented scale.
But the question is: what marketing opportunities will it actually provide? To sort the facts from the frenzy, we hunted down its top three areas of potential:
Bringing Pokémon hunters to retail
As the first major augmented reality experience to enter the mainstream, Pokémon Go provides a bridge between offline and digital strategy that is ripe for retailers to cross. In fact, developer Niantic has already made this connection a core revenue driver by offering major brands — such as McDonald’s — the chance to pay for their location to be turned into PokéStops or Gyms (areas players must assemble if they wish to battle for control or collect valuable items) and thereby enhance footfall.
While the fast-good giant is the only official partner to date, Niantic Chief Executive, John Hanke, confirmed at the recent Gamesbeat 2016 conference that the company would soon be increasing sponsorships to reduce its reliance on in-app purchases. In the meantime, there are still other ways for emerging and early start-up businesses to attract users, such as the ‘Lure’ module, which — at a price — draws Pokémon to specific locations for 30 minutes, giving companies a window in which to entice players over the threshold. In fact, a New York pizza bar has already tried this tactic to great effect, boosting transactions by 75% after deploying the lure module.
Fuelling location-based targeting
Pokémon Go is powered by location-tracking technology — players are wandering streets everywhere from London to Berlin trying to catch fantasy creatures with a digital Pokéball, and they’re doing so through their device’s GPS in an environment fuelled by Google Maps. Consequently, there is speculation that the game will be the next frontier of location-centric targeting.
Indeed, with vast reach and a constant influx of data, Pokémon Go has the two ingredients required for marketers to serve ads with ultimate contextual relevance using advanced mobile solutions from leading ad tech platforms, such as Near. In the coming weeks, brands may therefore begin serving personalised, location-based in-game offers, such as coupons for a free coffee as players pass a nearby cafe or social media notifications that a long-coveted Pokémon can be found in a certain store.
Driving programmatic possibilities
Maps are not the only part of Google that is connected to Nitanic: the media mogul incubated the start-up before joining Nintendo and The Pokémon Company in an estimated $30 million investment that enabled it to become independent last year.
This means Google has a significant stake in the company and a strong motivation to ensure it delivers a good return. Thus, key industry players expect that Google will soon seek to increase Pokémon Go’s ad tech capability by utilising its own advanced model, and facilitating efficient large-scale trading methods, such as programmatic.
While many of Pokémon Go’s marketing opportunities are still in the embryonic stages of development, one thing is for certain — marketers will have to tread carefully. Nintendo, still a major shareholder in the game, is known for avoiding in-game advertising and keeping a close watch on anything that might impact its strong public relations. So, the brands that do get through will need to ensure their messages delight, rather than disrupt, users on their Pokémon quest.