Pokémon Go: A New Opportunity For Digital Marketers

Nostalgia or a goldmine?


Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you will have noticed that the 90’s phenomenon Pokémon has returned in a big way in the form of Nintendo’s mobile gaming app, Pokémon Go.

The app has dominated the headlines and drawn widespread attention from not only gamers, but also religious leaders and health and security officials.

Despite the undeniable popularity of the game (there’s estimated to be over 100 million users!), its creator, Nintendo, announced a profit loss for the period of April and June. It is hard to know whether the game would have enjoyed the same popularity had users been asked to pay for the pleasure of playing, however, in order to take advantage of the popularity of the game, it is expected that Pokémon Go will soon open up to advertising from external brands. This presents hugely exciting opportunities for brands that want to engage with their customers on a new platform and - for retailers, in particular -  to interact with potential customers in their physical vicinity, using the Google Maps technology to fuel their efforts.

What opportunities does Pokémon Go bring for retailers?

With so many Pokémon hunters out trying to ‘catch ‘em all’, it is understandable why retailers may be keen to get involved in the action. The app is encouraging gamers to get off their sofa and discover new places that the augmented reality takes them to. This journey of discovery is also happening for retailers, with some unknowingly becoming hosts for gamers to battle their Pokémon or stock up on pokéballs. This journey will continue and, if rumours are to be believed, retailers may soon be able to sponsor their location on the Pokémon Go map and begin communicating with consumers directly through the app.

Rumours suggest the app will soon allow retailers to advertise on the game, meaning brands can reach gamers that are out and about looking for digital creatures. It is easy to see the potential that this offers retailers when it comes to raising awareness of their brand and there are already examples of retailers using their new found status as a ‘Pokéstop’ to advertise to customers on social media, drawing on the app’s global appeal. As with any new channel, whilst the opportunity for retailers to generate money from the app may be limited in the early days, for many brands, that won’t matter; to be able to communicate with new audiences, combined with the sheer number of users of the app, will be enough of a return in itself. Whilst some retailers currently appear open to the idea of communicating with their customers through mobile gaming apps, there is no telling how long the phenomenon of Pokémon Go will last. The app’s developers will need to move quickly in order to monetise the app and make it appealing to retailers to encourage them to sponsor their location or pay for advertising. Retailers must, in turn, consider how Pokémon Go fits into their wider marketing strategy – or if it even does.

One of the biggest appeals to retailers will be the large percentage of users in the millennial bracket; an audience that typically rejects direct marketing, presenting a rare opportunity to reach a lucrative audience. However, heavy-handed marketing can cause retailers to alienate themselves from their intended audience, so it remains to be seen whether consumers will mind having brands in their augmented world of Pokémon Go, or if this form of advertising will be rejected and have a negative impact on the game’s popularity.

Disruption in a digital world

Digital continues to disrupt many industries, leaving businesses needing to rethink and realign their overall strategy in order to remain competitive. The same can be said for Pokémon Go. It has revolutionized the mobile gaming market and put both Nintendo and Pokémon back on the map. However, as with all new forms of technology, retailers need to ensure they have a flexible digital marketing strategy - which is part of their overall business strategy - in order to make the most of the opportunities these new technologies and platforms can offer.

For any business looking to use Pokémon Go to connect and engage with a new audience, it would be wise to tread carefully and take a measured approach. The app provides a huge opportunity for retailers, but it certainly won’t be a suitable medium for all. Pokémon Go is only the start of the augmented reality gaming movement and retailers should keep this in mind when planning their digital marketing spend.

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