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BW Businessworld

Catch Them All

As smartphone users go out to catch Pokemons, marketers are flocking to Pokemon Go to catch the users

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

It’s too good an opportunity to miss. You have potential customers in a positive gaming mindset, a way of making them aware of your message, and the means to lure them to a specific location. It’s just what the marketer ordered.

By now even those who aren’t remotely interested will have heard of Pokémon Go, a game that uses augmented reality (AR) in real-world situations and has users going to hundreds of locations all around, competing with each other to collect 128 types of funny-looking creatures. And it seems they’ll do anything to catch them, including flout rules. The game hasn’t rolled out everywhere in the world yet and the maker Niantic’s servers are crashing from the demand or, as has been reported, possibly a malware attack. Already.

Pokémon Go users have been going to all sorts of places, public and private, including temples and churches, parks, restaurants, other peoples’ offices and homes and even out in the wild where one person discovered a dead body and another stepped on a venomous snake. Not really part of the game, of course. Many establishments are welcoming Pokémon players and putting up signs to say so. It’s the first time location and augmented reality have worked quite so well together.

Scale, At Last
Pokémon Go is not the first time AR has been taken to the masses in the real world. Remember Nokia’s City Lens that overlaid information and names of places when you pointed your phone around you? Google and Niantic Inc’s Ingress is also another game like Pokémon Go and has users out on location. But it’s with Pokémon Go that the real possibility of scale became clear.

Talk of advertising being added to the mix started pretty early. Location-based ads for funding the platform are very much on the cards. So are sponsored locations. Niantic CEO John Hanke told the Financial Times advertisers will be charged on a “cost per visit” basis, similar to the “cost per click” used in Google’s search advertising. The opportunity is huge and complex.

“The immense power of AR on a mobile device is demonstrated by the growth of Pokémon Go,” says Joe Martin, head of Social Insights at Adobe, in his blog. “The potential for mobile marketing to the Pokémon Go audience is enormous. Should it prove to be more than a fad, it could become the next segment of influencer marketing that retail companies look to integrate into their marketing plans.”

Joe Martin, who has worked in consumer data analysis, corporate strategy and digital marketing for nine years says that small businesses should immediately latch on to the lure functionality of Pokémon and provide purchasable Pokémon items at their locations. “It’s also not hard to see a future advertising revenue stream for Nintendo in which a local business pays a nominal fee to have a rare Pokémon appear in its store,” he says.

In India, one company that instantly did pounce on Pokemon Go is Goqii, which offers a fitness band with remote personalised coaching. Every Sunday Goqii holds a walkers event in Mumbai to encourage users to exercise regularly and recently, they decided to throw Pokémon into the mix because it’s such a natural fit and a good marketing opportunity. “Instead of the usual 50 or 60 participants, we had 450 people turn up — despite the rain,” says a thoroughly surprised Vishal Gondal, founder of Goqii. He sees great potential.

Pokémon has had unprecedented success but no one can really tell if its popularity will hold once users have had their fill. But it seems fairly clear that the tipping point for AR has come. “Basically we are going to go beyond the traditional modes of luring a customer to a product,” says Gondal. “Instead of deals and offers, digital objects can be used to get customers to a location.”

New Currency
Avinash Jhangiani, senior vice president, Digital & Mobility, Omnicom Media Group, says that Pokémon Go does indeed indicate a shift for marketers. “A new currency is born with Pokémon currency for value creation,” he says. “The next wave of marketing transformation is Experience. Consumers today buy experiences, not products. And the shift from ads to experiences is inevitable. Consumers want a fluid, seamless, connected storytelling experience across channels with context at the core of everything. In fact they love “phygital” experiences that blend the physical and digital worlds, more than just an online experience. This has proven to provide greater reach and engagement levels than pure online experiences,” he says.

Jhangiani believes that in the near future AR will move faster and has more potential than Virtual Reality for brands. As far as an experience like Pokémon goes, it’s not so much about mobile but mobility and behaviour. “A mobile marketing strategy is not going to cut it,” he says. “A more holistic, behavioural approach to address the future of advertising is needed.” But will it work beyond Pokémon?

“AR and location-based services have been around for a long time now,” says Sanjeev Jasani, head of Digital at Cheil, India, “But what Pokémon Go has proved to marketers and advertisers is the proof of the pudding. Often clients are second guessing what the consumer will like. But this medium allows us to experiment and try out new things. Who knows what will work.”

Jasani thinks a lot of companies will be asking for AR and location strategies. “But I’m still not sure how many will put their money on it,” he says. “I think the market needs more examples to make them confident. A few brands that are ahead of the digital curve will take this up for sure but for the masses to follow you will need more examples.”

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