Pokémon Go Marketing: Fad or Opportunity? Take The Quiz To Find Out!

By Hannah Eisenberg - August 04, 2016

The average Monday morning is surreal enough as you sit down and struggle to settle back into work, all before the caffeine has even fully kicked in.

But Monday, July 11th, was even more surreal than usual. My Twitter feed was invaded by Pokémons. I checked Facebook and LinkedIn and got the same results. I remember calling my husband and feeling a little confused about what the heck Pokémon Go was.  

By now, there probably isn't anyone who does not know what it is, so let's skip that whole song and dance. 

For the first few weeks, watching hundreds of people walking all over the city like brainless lemmings staring at their screens and hunting little virtual beings in an augmented reality was fascinating. It was all fun and games — like having a front-row seat at a mass sports event. 

However, smart business owners quickly figured out that there is money to be made.

Lots of money.

With virtually no investment and a skyrocketing return on investment. 


Image Credit: Genna Singer

Pokémon Go: A Powerful Marketing Tool To Turn Foot Traffic Into Potential Customers

The idea is nothing new. Most business-to-consumer retailers know that the combination of local, social, and mobile could be a very powerful marketing tactic, but so far the actual reality has been far from rosy.

Brick and Mortar retailers have been trying for years to offer discounts and special promotions to potential shoppers based on location data by using an Apple-backed technology called beacons.

However, according to Forrester, only 3% of retailers have been adopting the technology for several reasons:

  • Lack of value added: Messages like "Welcome to Walmart!" or generic notifications do not add any value for consumers.
  • Technological barriers: Consumers have to have installed the particular app, have their Bluetooth turned on, etc.
  • Creepiness factor: Consumers are just weirded out if a toy-related coupon pops up on their phone as they are in the toy section.

It was not until Pokémon Go that retailers and marketers alike saw the actual potential of it unfold in front of their very eyes... 

...just like the owner of L’inizio’s Pizza Bar in Queens, Sean Benedetti. As one of the first business owners to recognize the potential, Benedetti spent about $10 on "Lure Modules", an in-game purchase to attract more Pokémon to his pizzeria. Since walking for hours makes Pokémon hunters hungry and thirsty, and with the lure of capturing virtual Pokémon, players started flocking in — resulting in 30% more sales compared to an average weekend. 


Also,  Apple is hoping to cash in big over the next 12-24 months as gamers buy “PokéCoins” from its app store. With 21 million active players just two weeks after launch spending money on powerups (costing up to $99.99 for a package of 14,500 coins) — you do the math. 

Marketing Fad or Long-Term Strategy?

However, there are two sides to this success story. Non-gamers and non-luring businesses alike are already getting sick of the dozens of people walking around like zombies glued to their phones and invading public and private spaces alike. 

Originally intended to get video-playing teenagers and young adults off the couch and walking outside, Pokémons hang out in places of interest, like historical sites, parks, and gyms. The intention was noble but, in my eyes, backfired for many people. However, even as a business or private individual who is not playing or luring, you can get caught up in the craziness.

For example, we spent Sunday afternoon in a historical town learning more about the simple life of American settlers between 1690 and 1880. We were a group of ten adults and six children on a 2.5-hour walking tour that we had reserved and paid for. However, there were dozens of gamers hanging around everywhere, mostly taking away from the whole atmosphere. 

A friend of mine in the Netherlands was harassed all afternoon long by people ringing her doorbell and requesting access to her backyard because one of these desired, small fictional creatures was hanging out there. She is not playing the game, and she certainly did not put any lures out. But hey, what can you do, right? You gotta catch them all. So, people have no scruples when it comes to invading other people's privacy.

There are hundreds of stories like this, so the question is: Is this all a big fad that will burn out quickly? In other words, is it worth looking into as a marketing opportunity or should you not even waste your time?

Should You Integrate Pokémon Go Into Your Marketing Strategy

Using Pokémon Go as a marketing tool is not for everyone. While some retailers, bars, gyms and similar establishments could benefit in the short-term, others could even harm their bottomline. It depends on your business and who your ideal customers are, what products or services you offer, and whether or not foot traffic is your biggest driver of sales.

To enable you to determine if your business is a fit, we put together a quick quiz:


As you can see, Pokémon Go is not a fit for everyone!

First, start by looking into who is playing it. Then see how this overlaps with the type of customers you want coming through your door. According to Forbes, 63% of the players are female. The average player is "a 25-year-old, white woman with a college degree making about $90,000 a year."


(Graphic: Nick DeSantis/Forbes)

Also, you have to consider how much you depend on local foot traffic and how much consideration goes into buying your product. Is your business a small, local fast-food place, bar, gym or store that mainly serves impulse buyers? Great — give it a go! However, if your buying cycle is longer, your products are expensive, or you do not depend on everyday foot traffic to keep the doors open, don't waste your time. 

Finally, Be Careful What You Wish For

Once the lure is placed, it is somewhat out of your hands what happens next. You might see your sales spike by 30% in just one day, or you might have dozens or even hundreds of people trampling through your shop, showroom or location without buying anything, all while you are left to watch that nothing gets stolen and no one gets hurt — and let's not even mention the clean up after. 

However, the worst of all, you might disgruntle your paying customers and hurt your business. 

I will leave you with this.

I would love to hear more about your experiences, thoughts and plans. Please feel free to comment below.

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