What Happened Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its smash hit game with a digital out-of-home campaign that utilizes real-time data to highlight its global popularity. The outdoor ads will feature real-time data from the game app in Tokyo, London, and New York, such as numbers showing how many Pokémons are being caught nearby. Some billboards are also activated as “PokéStops,” where players go to collect in-game items, as a fun, meta way of adding a real-world layer to its campaign message.
What Brands Need To Do While the collective fever for Pokémon Go has considerably died down since last summer, the game still holds its place as the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, and quite possibly, in the world as well. Not even the iOS release of Nintendo’s Super Mario Run managed to challenge that. Last week, the game surpassed 750 million downloads, an enviable feat that underscores the longevity of the game. This OOH ad campaign cleverly captured just how hugely popular Pokémon Go is and reminded people of the enthusiasm it commanded. Similarly, Spotify ran a well-received end-of-year OOH campaign last year that featured funny music streaming statistics. More brands should consider plugging real-time data into their digital OOH campaign to help make its case.
Pokémon Go is also widely credited as the game that introduced a lot of mobile users to augmented reality. Since its debut last summer, the mobile AR space has certainly accelerated its development, with Facebook and Apple both coming out with their own developer platforms for AR. For more information on how brands may tap into the rapid development in AR to create engaging customer experiences, please check out the Advanced Interfaces section of our Outlook 2017.
What Happened While the craze of Pokémon Go has expectedly winded down a bit from its feverish launch this summer, there is no denying that this location-based mobile game still holds much potential for brands to explore. Back in August, Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, struck a deal with McDonald’s to turn over 3,000 restaurant locations in Japan into sponsored Gyms in the game. But since then, Niantic has made no big move in regards to bringing brand sponsorships to markets outside Japan.
That officially changes today as not one, but two big-name brands become sponsors for the game in the U.S. Earlier today Sprint announced it is partnering with Niantic to add PokéStops and Gyms at over ten thousand Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Sprint-RadioShack store locations. Moreover, Starbucks has reportedly also signed on for a similar partnership to turn its coffee shops nationwide into PokéStops and Gyms in the game. Moreover, a leaked document also shows that Starbucks will be introducing some Pokémon-themed drinks to accompany the launch.
What Brands Should Do As we pointed out in our previous Fast Forward analysis on the game, Pokémon Go’s smashing success presents great opportunities for brands to reach a young-skewing audience on mobile and even drive offline traffic to stores. While not every brand has the resources to become an official sponsor for game, there are still plenty of things that brands can do to capitalize on the game’s viral popularity and its AR-related implications. We have already seen some brands finding interesting workarounds such as location-based dynamic ads to reach Pokémon Go players. As Niantic warms up to brand sponsors, we expect more opportunities to come for brands to reach the massive global mobile users playing the game.
What Happened Over one month has passed since the global viral hit that is Pokémon Go was released in the U.S. on July 6th, and it has had quite a phenomenal month. Over the first weekend of August, the game hit 100 million installs worldwide, cementing its place as the one of most downloaded mobile games ever. Financial Times reports that Pokémon Go has racked up $250 million in revenue through in-app purchases since launch, and AdWeek’s social media tracking shows 231 million people engaged in 1.1 billion interactions that mentioned Pokémon Go on Facebook and Instagram during July.
For brands, Pokémon Go’s exploding success has presented new opportunities and challenges to reach mobile consumers. Game-maker Niantic and Nintendo have been cautious about opening up the game for ads and sponsorships, but it did make an exception in Japan for McDonald’s, whose stores are assigned as Sponsored Gym locations as the fast food chain became the first brand to market in Pokémon Go. And the campaign was immediately effective, as McDonald’s Japan posted increased sales by 27% in July.
What Brands Need To Do If those numbers were any indication, it looks like Pokémon Go is more than just a fleeting fad, but rather a sustainable mobile phenomenon that brand marketers need to continue to pay attention to. While it remains to be seen whether the in-game sponsorship opportunities will be extended to markets outside Japan, there is still plenty that brands can do to capitalize on the game’s viral popularity in the meantime. For example, brands such as Zipcar, T-Mobile, Nike, and yogurt brand Stonyfield have all come up with their own Pokémon-related marketing efforts to capitalize on the game’s viral popularity. Stonyfield, in particular, cleverly leveraged location-based ads to target Pokémon Go players at over 10,000 PokéStops in the U.S. with ad copy that specifically seeks to engage with players.
What Happened Stonyfield Farm becomes the latest brand to jump in on the Pokémon bandwagon as it devised a clever location-based ad campaign to reach Pokémon Go players. Working with Aki Technologies, a San Francisco-based mobile ad firm, the yogurt brand is serving up ads that specifically target Pokémon players at over 10,000 U.S. PokéStops, real-world checkpoints where players travel to in order to receive free in-games supplies. The ad copy reads “time to catch a Stonyfield,” and links to a store-locator on Stonyfield’s website. Aki’s ad network serves the ads via popular apps consumers often use while playing Pokémon Go, such as weather and messaging apps.
What Brands Need To Do This campaign is an interesting workaround for Stonyfield to leverage Pokémon Go’s exploding popularity to reach mobile consumers without actually sponsoring any in-game features. Since its launch, Pokémon Go has scored 75 million downloads worldwide, making it the most successful mobile game ever. The companies behind the game have been cautious toward opening up the game for sponsorship, but when it launched in Japan last week, McDonald’s appeared as the first sponsor for the “gym” locations in the game.
One notable limitation of this campaign, however, is that Stonyfield’s ads are only guaranteed to appear within five minutes of players visiting a PokéStop, whereas in reality people typically stay at PokéStops for less time. Regardless, this campaign is still an innovative case of location-based mobile ad targeting and should serve as inspiration for brands looking to connect with Pokémon Go players.
What Happened Two weeks after its initial release, Pokémon Go is finally set to be released in Japan on Wednesday (Update 7/20: the launch has been delayed due to the leak of the partnership), TechCrunch reports. Sources also claim that this major roll-out will also feature the first Sponsored Locations in the game, with over 3,000 McDonald’s locations in Japan designated as Gyms. Reports about game-maker Niantic opening up the game to allow Sponsored Locations first surfaced last week, and for now it remains to be seen whether the company will roll out this brand opportunity to other markets.
The foot traffic the game drives is also giving various restaurants, cafes, and other stores significant boosts in customers. Picasso’s Pizzeria in Buffalo, NY advertised that they are located in between two PokéStops and claimed that sales doubled in just a few hours. Various restaurants across the country are reported to be attracting Pokémon Go players with extra Pokémons generated by Lures, an in-game purchase, as well as offering discounts and gift cards to people who tweet out photos of themselves with Pokémon in the restaurants.
What Brands Need To Do With the game scoring a higher engagement rate than Facebook and more daily active users than Twitter, Pokémon Go’s smashing success presents great opportunities for brands to reach a young-skewing audience on mobile and even drive offline traffic to stores. While it remains to be seen when the company behind Pokémon Go will bring sponsorship opportunities to markets outside Japan, there are still plenty of things that brands can do to capitalize on the game’s viral popularity. For starters, brands can take a cue from T-Mobile, which announced a series of Pokémon Go-related promotions to appeal to the vast number of players. For brands with physical locations that are near PokéStops, it would also be important to indicate so on Yelp for the new search option it added.
Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.
• Pokémon Go has quickly become a global phenomenon in less than a week
• The game encourages players to explore their cities, driving real-world traffic for local businesses
• A mass audience is falling in love with augmented reality (AR), opening the door for brands to leverage AR technologies to reach consumers
What Is Pokémon Go IPG Media Lab and Ansible have been watching the augmented reality space closely for the last few years and we have seen significant change in consumer understanding but more modest brand adoption. Snapchat’s popular selfie lenses provide a good example of how augmented reality has already infiltrated our digital life. Now with the hype surrounding the launch, suddenly many clients are asking, “What is Pokémon Go and why should I care?”
Pokémon Go is a mobile game released last Wednesday that has become a viral sensation. Based on the popular Japanese video game franchise Pokémon, which is part-owned by Nintendo and previously extended to feature films, playing cards, cartoons, and more, the new mobile game leverages GPS and cameras on smartphones to simulate the Pokémon-catching experience from the older games in the real world. Niantic Inc., a mobile game maker spun out from Alphabet, created Pokémon Go based on one of its previous games called Ingress, which similarly relies on AR and location.
In the game, players must leave their homes and explore their neighborhoods and cities, following a digital map that leads them to various characters and locations. There are now a few ways to capitalize on this new foot traffic and Niantic just announced that they are willing to create in-game sponsorship opportunities soon. Nintendo’s involvement and the fact that the game is marketed to kids means this will take time. For now, the game is monetized by in-app purchases by users instead of advertising, the same way the other large mobile games generate revenue. Because the game gets users out into the world, there are marketing opportunities surrounding the game even without in-game ads or sponsorship.
This weekend I went to the recently opened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and wanted to know everything about the art and various installations, beyond what was posted on the walls. I felt as if I should be able to lift my phone and get more details on the process of the creation of the art work, rather than having to type a search term into my browser. Pokémon Go had changed my expectations on how to access information. That shift in expectation, perhaps, is the game’s true importance.
Vox has a detailed explainer of the game that you can read to gain a deeper understanding of how it works. As of now, the app is only available in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and Germany, but it is reported to be launching wider in Europe and Asia “within a few days.” Since launch, it has overtaken popular dating app Tinder in Android app installs, and its daily active users in the U.S. has surpassed those of popular apps such as Twitter and Pandora, according to SimilarWeb’s estimation. On the iOS side, the app has topped both Top Download and Top Grossing charts the App Stores in all three markets it has become available. The only other game that managed this feat in the last three years was Clash Royale by SuperCell, who have just been acquired by China’s Tencent for $8.6 billion.
What Brands Need To Do Brands without physical locations will have a tougher time capitalizing directly on the latest Pokémon craze. While we are hoping for more opportunities to get in front of Pokémon Go players through in-game ads or sponsorships, this is a good time to think about ways for augmented reality to drive new opportunities for your brand. AR can be a great way for customers to envision your products in their lives and to launch digital experiences from signage or product packaging. What we can do now through a smartphone is just the beginning. As Microsoft’s HoloLens, Magic Leap, and the rumored Snapchat glasses roll out over the next few years, lots more will be possible. For now, we’re concentrating on what we can do with the phone that everyone already has.
What Retailers Need To Do The nature of Pokémon Go demands players go outside and walk around. Already, there are stores and cafes seeing a spike in foot traffic because their locations are hotspots in the game. The New York Times reported that one bar in Harrisburg, Va., has started offering discounts to Pokémon Go players on a specific team, while a tea shop in San Francisco offered a “buy one get one” deal to Pokémon Go players.
If one of your locations is lucky enough to be at or near an in-game hotspot known as a PokéStop and you’re willing do a little work and make a few in-app purchases, you can drive even more traffic and sales. Users and businesses alike may set “lure modules,” acquired via in-app purchase, to draw Pokémon – and therefore players – to a PokéStop. (Update 7/14: Niantic’s official Pokemon Go support page has put out a request form for suggesting new PokéStop and Gym locations.) The Huge Cafe in Atlanta is located between two PokéStops, and it has been doing just that to draw in customers. When bought in the largest pack possible, the lures work out to just over $1.17 per hour of drawing in customers. It’s hard to find a better deal than that. L’inizio Pizza Bar in Queens used that strategy and boosted sales by an incredible 30%, spending only $10 in the game.
What Other Brands Can Do Brands without physical locations will have a tougher time capitalizing directly on the latest Pokémon craze. While we are hoping for more opportunities to get in front of Pokémon Go players through in-game ads or sponsorships, this is a good time to think about ways for augmented reality to drive new opportunities for your brand. AR can be a great way for customers to envision your products in their lives and to launch digital experiences from signage or product packaging. What we can do now through a smartphone is just the beginning. As Microsoft’s HoloLens, Magic Leap, and the rumored Snapchat glasses roll out over the next few years, lots more will be possible. For now, we’re concentrating on what we can do with the phone that everyone already has.
Fashion and beauty brands, for example, can leverage AR technology to allow customers to try on the latest accessories and makeup without visiting a physical store. A number of beauty brands have created AR apps to enable virtual sampling and try-on, including Covergirl’s BeautyU, Sally Hansen’s ManiMatch, and L’Oreal’s popular Makeup Genius app. Fashion brands such as Rebecca Minkoff and Neiman Marcus have started testing AR-powered interactive mirrors to digitalize their fitting room experiences.
Home improvement brands could also use AR technology to provide a powerful preview tool for customization, showing customers what their rooms would look like with a different wall color or with a different set of cabins or carpets. IKEA has already developed an AR preview app to see if the furniture you want would fit in your room.
Q. Can I use guerilla marketing techniques to get my brand into the game?
A. Not really but see below for a way to use guerilla marketing to get foot traffic in the real world.
Q. What are lures and what is crowd-luring?
A. “Lure modules” are an item in the game that attract Pokémon to a PokéStop location for 30 minutes (see screenshots below). Anyone in the area can take advantage of the lure and they usually attract crowds of players. The lures last for 30 minutes and, if bought in increments of $100, cost $1.17 per hour.
One thing we would caution brands and businesses against is relying solely on the benefit of lures at this stage. Since there are so many players using lures organically right now, a lure alone might not move the needle much. We suggest businesses pair it with special promotions for Pokemon players, along with a social strategy to highlight the rare(r) Pokémons which are appearing at the location — ideally with screenshots showing them on location in the game’s AR view — in order to truly maximize the impact.
Q. How do I turn my retail location into a PokéStop or Gym?
A. Gyms are destinations players to battle with other players’ Pokémons, whereas a PokéStop is a checkpoint that players pass by for a few seconds to get free loot. So far, Niantic has full control over the creation of PokéStops and Gyms.
Q. How does incense work?
A. Incense works similarly to lures, in that it attracts Pokémon, but these should not be used by brands as they only create extra Pokémon for the user deploying them, not for other users in the game. They are not tied to a location the way lures can only be used at PokéStops.
Q. Can I buy lures to add them to my store?
A. Lures are purchased in the in-game store with Pokecoins, which are purchased with real money.
How We Can Help The Media Lab and Ansible have considerable experience with AR technologies and location-based experiences and how they apply to marketing. We’ve developed an AR experience where Lego toys come to life and assemble themselves in front of your eyes, and created a HoloLens interactive auto experience. Please get in touch with the Lab’s Client Services Director Samantha Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ansible’s Account Director Merrell Middleton (email@example.com) if you’d like more information or have a client opportunity.
For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglab.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your feedback will help us immensely.
Header image is a promotional image courtesy of Niantic
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