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Businesses are always looking for new ways to place their products within easy reach of consumers and for new ways to spread the word about what they have to offer. Social media platforms have been invaluable places to link up with customers, but now new options are appearing.
One of the most interesting new frontiers in online marketing is multi-player mobile games to attract players. In theory, businesses can harness massive communities of gamers to promote their products. But is this realistic? Absolutely, and Pokémon GO is a great example of how powerful game-based marketing can be.
Pokémon started as a popular cartoon in the mid-1990s. Its character, Ash, tries to catch as many Pokémon (fictional animals with their own special features) as possible. Video games followed for formats like the Gameboy Color, Nintendo DS and 3DS, and became one of the best-selling franchises in the world.
Pokémon GO takes the saga forward and has been released on iOS and Android devices. For the first time, the way players capture Pokémon is linked to the real world around them using augment reality technology. Different Pokémon appear in physical locations linked to their properties.
Players capture their Pokémon and train them into fighting machines, with the aim of raising their in-game level via combat with other gamers at special “gyms” that are located around the local area.
There are also locations known as PokeStops. These could be anywhere, from museums or monuments to cafes and restaurants. At PokeStops, players can find useful in-game items such as Poke Balls, which can be used to capture Pokémon. Players can also purchase Lure Modules to use at PokeStops. These lures attract nearby Pokémon and provide an easy way for new players to improve their ratings.
If your business happens to be near a PokeStop, it is easy to see how to benefit from this phenomenon. Lures are extremely cheap, as they are targeted at ordinary players and, for a couple of dollars, small companies can instantly gain footfall. By doing so, they can ensure a steady stream of players looking for Pokémon and PokeBalls, and plenty of these people will go on to make a real-world purchase at the business in question. If nothing else, it’s something that could make a difference, but if it doesn’t, it won’t cost the earth.
Combine your lure with creative notices or posters and tell passing players about the chance to accumulate Pokémon in your store. It’s a good time to brand yourself as a fan of such a family-friendly, popular title. Even if it seems a little geeky, in an age dominated by geeks, that’s no bad thing.
To be really successful at luring Pokémon players, companies should link their lures to their social media accounts. By posting regular Pokémon-based events and hooking up with fans, they can be ideally positioned to attract big gaming crowds.
For instance, CoCoro Bistro, a great Japanese spot near our office on the Miracle Mile in Stockton, is in a unique position in that it is right next to a PokeStop and a Gym. I’ve noticed a player named “CoCoroBistro” placing lures throughout the Mile and posting the evidence on Instagram.
The future will offer all kinds of opportunities related to mobile gaming. New games will emerge, which will offer completely new ways to promote your business, while existing games like Pokémon GO will change as their developers seek to maximize their revenues.
Established games will inevitably become more professional, as the creators seek to marketize their advertising potential. But before that happens, there will always be a “wild west” situation for creative marketers to exploit. So it’s vital to act quickly if you want to reap the rewards.
In the long-term, marketers need to adapt to how gamers think. Mass mobile gaming experiences are sure to become more popular, particularly as augmented reality devices catch on. Businesses that stay alert to how they work and how they can be used to reach customers will have a huge advantage.
Gaming is one of the most exciting marketing arenas, even more so as games start to interact with actual communities. In a world where gamers roam cities battling with other players, businesses that understand where they go and why will prosper.
Dan Natividad, a Stockton native, is a partner at Port City Marketing Solutions along with Kristen Dyke and Erin Diego. Dan can be reached at [email protected]