What can marketers learn from Pokémon GO?

Pokémon GO has brought location-based gaming into the mainstream. What can marketers learn from this technology to bring them closer to their consumers?

What can marketers learn from Pokémon GO?

It’s hard to believe that Pokémon GO has been out for just over two months. Even in that short time it has got the marketing community buzzing.

Here at Púca we love Pokémon GO because it illustrates how smartphones allow us to engage in a very rich and personalised way with the world around us. Pokémon GO’s mash-up of real and virtual worlds, of the digital and the physical is a perfect illustration of the trends and possibilities for contextual marketing and ‘smarter’ customer engagement.

A bit of background about Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO was developed by Nintendo and Niantic who based it on their existing Ingress platform (a more adult-oriented location based science fiction game). It was actually conceived and initially launched as an April Fool’s prank back in 2014 in collaboration with Google.

In a nutshell – Pokémon GO rewards movement. The basic premise is that you search, find, capture and train nearby Pokémon who pop up in the app via your smartphone’s camera.

We won’t go into too much detail here as there are plenty of how to play guides around, and the best way to experience the game is to play it yourself or watch a friend playing it.

Alternatively, the trailer on the official Pokémon GO site gives you a good overview of the experience for Pokémon hunters.

Pictured below is a Pikachu (very rare!) in our local park.


A Social Phenomenon

It’s not just techies and marketing folk who are praising the game. The Pokémon GO “Catch ’em all” craze has also delighted health professionals for encouraging players of all ages to get off the sofa, exercise and interact with their environment.

Of course as with any social phenomenon it hasn’t been universally positive. There have been stories of inappropriate locations, reckless driving and even alarming stampedes of Pokémon hunters as they pursue rare and elusive Pokémon.

But on the whole, gamers have been very enthusiastic about Pokémon GO, in particular the social and communal aspect of the game as illustrated by the mass Pokémon hunts and bar crawls taking place around the world.

Check out the video below of a New York Pokémon GO bar crawl…

According to excited media reports, Pokémon GO offers us “a glimpse into the future” (Guardian) of Augmented Reality apps (AR) and contextual marketing. But is that just hype? Is Pokémon GO just a passing craze?

Let’s take a look at some learnings that can be applied to bring brands closer to their customers…

What Marketers can learn from Pokémon GO:

#1: Millennials want real life experiences

Millennials are often cast as the couch potato generation, but this is misguided. Research shows that friendship, community and shared experiences are highly valued by Millennials who love to socialize and interact in real-time when given the opportunity.

Pokémon GO also demonstrates that young people are action and community-oriented and looking for an excuse to get out and about.

“What Pokémon GO offers is an opportunity to be social, silly and exploratory… let’s step back and start thinking about how we can create more opportunities for young people to be meaningfully connected in an augmented way” (NY Times).

The learning here is that by facilitating shared experiences for Millennials, brands can win their hearts, minds, and loyalty.


Image courtesy of http://thegbrief.com/

#2: Pokémon GO is an advertising platform

Many savvy businesses have already adopted Pokémon GO as a way to reach a new mobile audience, with some using their Pokéstop status to entice passing trade and even paying the app a daily fee to purchase lures.

According to one pizzeria restaurant’s manager their business spiked by 75% as a result of Pokémon GO (Time.com)


McDonalds in Japan had the first sponsored Pokémon locations, turning their 3,000 fast food stores into Pokémon “gyms” (via @techcruch) to increase footfall.

These examples show us how Pokémon GO as an advertising platform can offer an effective short term sales spike for brands and businesses. But direct customer engagement is also important for brands in the longer term – we’ll come back to this point later.

#3: Location is key

We are already accustomed to using location-based navigation and utility apps on our smartphones in our everyday lives – Hailo, Deliveroo, Google Maps and so forth.

Navigation apps such as GeoFindIT demonstrate how Augmented Reality (AR) and location-based technology can be used to showcase useful data (in this case Property price) and enhance a navigation experience.


The genius of Pokémon Go is that it combines these features with gamification and rewards, and there are many ways that brands can tap into this potent combination in their consumer campaigns.

Which brings us to our next Pokémon GO learning…

#4: “Catch ’em all” translates to brand loyalty

Strip Pokémon GO back to its fundamental elements and what do you get? A branded treasure hunt / reward program with incentives to purchase and “level up”.

japan-pokemon-go-mcdonaldsImage courtesy of http://www.supermorgy.com/

Ther­­e’s no reason why brands and retailers can’t leverage the same gamification / reward principles as Pokémon GO – perhaps via their own branded loyalty apps and sales promotions.

Instead of rewarding consumers with Pokéballs and incense the reward could be a prize, a free sample, a special combo deal or a discount.

The possibilities are endless, but the end game is a reward program that is A) Entertaining and “sticky” B) Has a social element C) Is cost-effective to fulfil.

#5: Context is still King

In the wake of the Pokémon GO craze we predict a surge in contextual marketing initiatives by leading brands.

Contextual marketing simply means providing relevant information, rewards and incentives to customers based on where they are, who they are and what they are doing. Contextual marketing helps customers make buying decisions “in the moment“.

Engaging with your customers where they shop and play is vital as you can tailor a locally relevant offer for them that is more likely to appeal. Think quality over quantity.

Shopper marketing research backs up the importance of getting contextual marketing right; 90% percent of consumers use their smartphones in store and these shoppers convert at a 20% higher rate compared to those not using digital.

Let’s GO!

2016 will be remembered, amongst other things, for being the Summer of Pokémon GO. It has quickly become a global gaming phenomenon and perhaps the hype is well deserved.

For brands the take-away is that customer expectations of a digital experience have been raised enormously. They will now expect more than the usual run of the mill promotions from their favourite brands and are hungry for contextually relevant, exciting and rewarding digital experiences.

Getting Started

Are you are a brand or an agency? Get in touch with us to see how we can help you create ‘smart’, location-based marketing campaigns and promotions. We have all of the technology and expertise you need to create something special.

Get in touch

Please complete the form below, and we’ll contact you as soon as possible
to discuss your needs in more detail along with pricing.

Join us We're currently hiring. If you're interested, check out our careers page more