Pokémon Go as Guerrilla Marketing

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It should come as no surprise to anyone that the latest Pokémon game, Pokémon Go, is now the most downloaded mobile game in U.S. history. Within 24 hours of its release, the game soared to the top of the U.S. Apple Store’s free and top-grossing download charts, making it the fastest-growing mobile game in history.

With this success came a spectrum of reactions. Some people eagerly downloaded the app and joined the Pokémon Go community within moments of the app’s release while some simply couldn’t comprehend the phenomenon and brushed it off with a roll of the eyes and shrug of the shoulders.

Others remain curious but skeptical. There is one thing that people can agree on though, and that is Pokémon Go offers a host of marketing opportunities, specifically for guerrilla-style marketing.

A Brief Introduction to Pokémon Go

Before we dive into the plethora of marketing opportunities that Pokémon Go presents, it’s necessary to go over the basics.

Pokémon Go is a downloadable mobile app that transforms the real world into a world filled with Pokémon by using the device’s camera and mapping features. What differentiates Pokémon Go from other Pokémon games, or other games in general, is that it requires a player to explore their surrounding geographic area.

The game turns real-world locations like buildings, parks, and art installations into places called ‘Pokéstops’ that are used to get items in the game such as Pokéballs for catching more Pokémon or potions for reviving Pokémon after battle.

The in-game map, which matches a real-world map, displays where these Pokéstops are as well as nearby Pokémon and gyms, where players battle each other.

Players follow the map on the app and thus are already playing the game from the moment the game opens. This makes spotting Pokémon Go players pretty easy. Just look for anyone with their noses in their phones, frantically flicking their fingers across their screens in hopes of adding another Pokémon to their collection.

Pokémon Go and Guerrilla Marketing

1. Lures. Pokémon Go offers many marketing opportunities, which makes it perfect for guerrilla marketing. For example, many businesses have started using ‘lures.’ Lures draw Pokémon to a specific Pokéstop. More Pokémon means more players will show up to that Pokéstop because they can see the lure on their maps. Players receive lures from Pokéstops, leveling up, or from purchasing them from the in-app store with real money. So, businesses can attract crowds of Pokémon Go players for a little more than a dollar an hour once they download the game.

Unfortunately, not all businesses can use this marketing tactic since it is necessary for the business to be Pokéstop or at least be near one. If your business is not near a Pokéstop, you’re a bit out of luck.

There are rumors that Niantic, the company that created Pokémon Go, will soon allow businesses to request to be a Pokéstop, most likely for a fee.

However, businesses who are lucky enough to already be around Pokéstops have seen remarkable success from using lures:

  • L’inizio Pizza Bar in Manhattan has created Pokémon-themed pizzas for their shop. With a $10 investment in lure modules, they increased their food and drink sales by 75 percent. 
  • Similarly, It’s A Grind in California incentivized players by offering a fresh lure on their stop for every 15 drinks purchased.
  • Even kids all across the country set up lures at their lemonade stands for thirsty players trying to pull a multi-hour Pokémon excursion.

So instead of using lures to draw Pokémon, businesses are using them to draw in customers. Using lures to attract customers is a great example of a guerrilla marketing tactic because it follows the basics of guerrilla marketing: Using low-cost, unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results. 

However, with the popularity of lures on the rise, there's something else to consider: The likelihood lure prices will increase for businesses. Another possibility is that Niantic could release different lure types for varying prices with some lasting longer or reaching farther.

So, if you’re planning on using lures to help draw people to your business, it would be best to start doing that sooner rather than later.

2. Relevancy. Another guerrilla marketing tactic businesses use is thematic signage or special offers to appeal to players outside of the game:

  • Best Buy fixated on a few pain points by promoting more powerful phones for those struggling to run the app or needed longer battery life.
  • Businesses with signs outside their establishments made creative references or puns about Pokémon to attract players.
  • An animal shelter in Indiana decided to make use Pokémon Go by asking players to walk their shelter dogs while playing. An especially genius move since the players may also become attached to these pups while walking around with them. Double win.

As you can see, just being apart of the Pokémon Go conversation can benefit a business.

3. Social Media. Here are a few more ways that a business could appeal to the Pokémon Go crowd without breaking the bank:

  • Hosting a Pokémon hunting party event on Facebook.
  • Ask your followers to show off their Pokémon, or host a Pokémon name contest to see how creative your followers can be.
  • Make sidewalk signs like “We’re putting out lures from 10-2 p.m.” or “People catch Charizards here.”
  • Fill Pokémon Go players needs such as: “Power station for Pokémon”, “Wifi for Pokémon” and “Stay hydrated while on your Pokémon journey”

Pokémon Go players have already been taking to social media to brag about their latest conquests or funny name puns, so it would be a great opportunity to engage with them.

There are many creative solutions to incorporating the Pokémon Go fad into your everyday marketing.

If you find yourself struggling to figure out how to make use of Pokémon Go, or to market your business, feel free to reach out to us. We'd be happy to help. 

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