Is This a Thing Again?

What a Brand from the 90s Taught Us About Modern Mobile Advertising

By now, you either are still caught with a serious case of Poké-fever or a crippling sense of Poké-fatigue. The billion dollar, record smashing app has caught the attention of millions of fans across the world (even extending beyond the original 1999 playing card audience) causing a wave of casualties, injuries, robberies, trespassing violations, and some very quick-minded entrepreneurial spin-off ventures.

Unwittingly, businesses have been brought into the mix as millions of players have invaded storefronts guised as “gyms” or “pokéstops” in efforts to “catch ‘em all!” to varying degrees of applause. Some small businesses have decided to capitalize off of this increase in foot traffic by setting in-game “lures” to draw players into their storefronts and advertising the rare Pokémon found within their businesses.

Though Niantic (the technology company behind Nintendo’s Pokémon Go’s success) has now confirmed that Sponsored Locations will be available in the next round of updates, loyal players continue to stress the need for brand integration value – not just branded experiences. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel (however shiny and highly addicting), brands should instead look to Pokémon Go (PG) as a barometer for how consumers are looking to engage with technology in the future. Here are a few considerations for developing your next consumer engagement strategy:

Consumers Are Not Looking For High-Tech

PG is a great example of an augmented reality game interface (in that it adds virtual enhancements to actual reality versus virtual reality which creates a virtual world), however it is not the first and arguably, not even the best. Users have experienced numerous flaws and glitches in gameplay, some stemming from its immense popularity, but others inherent to the app’s development. True loyalists will even recall a similar earlier iteration called Ingress that quietly launched with little fanfare despite using similar technology. All that to say: cutting-edge technology alone will not increase user engagement. People are looking for new experiences with the devices and technology that they use on a daily basis. Brands that find innovative ways to use existing technologies will win out above efforts that introduce consumers to complex, expensive new devices they have to master. However, with leveraging existing tech…

Consumers Thrive on Accuracy

Ever since smartphone mobile usage became ubiquitous, consumers have opted in to location sharing with the promise that it would provide convenience and functionality. Geo-targeting, geo-fencing, and even beacon-targeting are all technologies that have existed with varying levels of efficacy, but what PG has been able to independently demonstrate is that real-time location accuracy is not only attainable down to a 1:1 connection, but downright fun. If marketers had any trepidation about geolocation due to privacy, PG players have turned those notions on their head with millions of players willingly sharing real-time location data (and at one time, even more sensitive data) to enhance their experience. Finally(!), it seems that effective geolocation targeting has arrived — and with a mutual value proposition: retailers want sales, players want coins/rewards/Pokémon. Brands can now directly connect foot traffic to gameplay with a “cost per visit” pricing model instead of forcing a story with a CPM. Although using geolocation for entertainment discovery seems great…

Consumers Do Not Want to Play Hide and Seek Forever

Embracing the nostalgia of the popular 90s trading card game was definitely a huge part of PG’s success. However, brands should not treat this overnight success as an excuse to create more virtual treasure hunts and expect similar results. As we fondly reminisce the similar fame of other mobile juggernauts (Flappy Bird, Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Farmville, etc), we’re reminded that spin-offs and imitations rarely capture the spark that originals ignited. How Niantic develops its updates will determine the staying power of this latest craze, but brands can rest assured that imitation is not the quickest path to victory. Instead, if a mobile activation is right for your target, identify opportunities for enhancement based on their existing habits and connect that to value in their offline world. For example, Walgreens integrated its Prescription Refill API into women’s health app Glow to provide unique value to app users endemic to their habitual use of the app. Speaking of unique value…

Consumer Need Value, Not Logos

The forthcoming Sponsored Locations that will soon be available to advertisers within the PG interface are staple placements for brand inclusion within these types of apps and are invariably an easy, no-frills route to get in the door, however, the current endemic method of engaging players with lures and pokéstops/gyms may fare better for businesses. Sure, brands could slap their logos and imagery on relevant locations within the game like other mobile app experiences, but part of the novelty of this movement is that it is not like other experiences. This one has a truer ring of authenticity than other mobile placements so brands should try to find more native opportunities within the PG interface and others to engage consumers in ways that provide value whether in-game or offline. For retailers, this could be offering specific offers or content for players in and around businesses (similar to how Foursquare engaged businesses with check-ins) for offline value or offering in-game tips and unlocked content. The key is to find the intersection of brand objectives and authentic user needs.

Expect the unexpected if you choose to tread the uncharted waters of Pokémon Go or future mobile gaming activations. So long as the value to consumers is clear, the engagement should follow.

For more tips and insights on how to take your marketing from now to next, subscribe to our newsletter or contact Nicole Stone – Senior Vice President, Business Development at or 414.270.7235.

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