Pokemon Go: What was the fallout for marketers and PRs?

Pokemon Go: What was the fallout for marketers and PRs?

Lucy Steadman

Lucy Steadman

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll no doubt be aware of the phenomenon that is Pokemon Go, following huge success in Australia and the US. The app’s unprecedented popularity gave Nintendo stocks an enormous lift and even made it a target for hackers to bring down its servers with a DDoS attack.

If you haven’t had a chance to try it yet, or perhaps haven’t been brave enough, the augmented reality game shows virtual Pokemon on a real-world GPS map via the user’s phone. The user then catches Pokemon with the phone’s camera, and can battle them in “gyms” – usually a landmark such as a church or strip club – close by.

It’s simple enough, but certainly a force that’s not to be ignored, particularly if you work in marketing and PR. The game, already the biggest in US history, is beginning to overtake Twitter and Facebook in terms of daily active users, presenting a huge opportunity for brand sponsorships.

Pokemon Go is a free app and has to monetise somehow, after all. Currently it has in-app purchases, but sponsored locations can’t be far off. There’s been heavy reporting on people flocking to places such as parks where rare Pokemon are hiding, and if this were a sponsored location, it would mean huge foot-fall for the brand.

Niantic CEO, John Hanke, speculated that this could be done as a model where advertisers pay the company to be included as a location in Pokemon Go, and pay on a “cost per visit” basis – a model not dissimilar to what’s currently applied to web and social media advertising. What that means is, as a brand, you’ll be able to physically draw in customers and put the product or service right in front of them. Whether they’ll actually pay attention to said product or service is hard to say yet, but there’s already evidence of boosts to businesses that have been using the game in their favour.

So, who will be first to test out the sponsored locations? Almost certainly McDonald’s if rumours are anything to go by. References to the company and its logo already appear within the game, and an anonymous source reported that, with the sponsorship, each restaurant could appear as a virtual destination to visit and engage with – meaning your next Big Mac could come with a side of Pikachu.

While it all seems positive, brands will need to be careful in their execution of sponsored locations so they don’t hurt their cause and turn users away, or in fact draw too many people in and not be able to support the demand it creates. Likewise, brand association is important too, and sponsored locations should only be used by companies happy to form a connection with the game.

The lesson is: just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s right for every brand. That said, we’re looking forward to seeing how the B2B side of Pokemon Go plays out!

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