Pokémon Go Opens the Doors to AR Marketing


By: Connor Wickens

Pokémon Go is the first augmented reality (AR) game that has become a full on hit, a true cultural phenomenon that has been downloaded over 100 million times despite being released just a month ago. Reports are showing that the game is racking in over 10 million dollars a day from in-game player purchases alone. So far Niantic, the developers behind the app, have limited payed in-game advertising to Japanese McDonald’s franchises – but this hasn’t stopped smaller marketers and public relations firms around the world from attempting to take advantage of the popularity.

L’inizio, a small pizza restaurant in Queens, saw their business go up 75 percent after spending $10 on Poke lures over the course of one weekend. iconoCLAD, a consignment store in Salt Lake City, was featured on Forbes and CNN Money for placing hand drawn Pokémon-style signs outside the shop welcoming players after discovering their store was the location of a PokéStop. Marketers are getting creative with what they can do with the game and the media is taking notice, but Pokémon Go is still young and its relationship with marketers is just beginning.

AR gameplay differs greatly from traditional video games. This change in user experience forces marketers to take drastically different approaches to in-game advertisements. Pokémon Go thrusts players directly into the game’s augmented reality. They traverse both the real world and the game’s world in real time, creating their own stories as they adventure and progress. The marketer’s job is to supplement these stories, make an impact but avoid interfering with the players’ immersion. This uniquely-AR approach to in-game ads has marketers frantically trying to take advantage of this billion-dollar app – which can mean very good news for players.  Advertising in an AR game like Pokémon Go directly affects the user experience, marketers are actually helping put more content into the game by purchasing advertising. Players get more in-game content, marketers gain impressions, and Niantic gets monetary rewards and customer satisfaction. It’s a cycle of benefits.

McDonalds Japan is the first to pay for such advertising. Last month the nearly 3,000 McDonalds locations around Japan each became hosts to Pokémon gyms, places were players go to participate in Pokémon battles. McDonald’s stock surged in July following the announcement. According to Niantic CEO, John Hanke, it is just the beginning of partnerships between brands and Pokémon Go. Although Niantic is yet to officially announce their next step, there are still many facets of Pokémon Go that have high marketing potential. Lures, PokéStops, and even rare Pokémon can be used strategically to attract players to paying shops, restaurants, or neighborhoods. The promised addition of more Pokémon could become a sponsored event. With more than 500 Pokémon that are yet to be released, marketers have plenty of opportunities to benefit.

There is a lot marketing opportunities to look forward to in the future of Pokémon Go and AR gaming. Although most of the upcoming additions to Pokémon Go remain a mystery, it’s initial global success as a game and a marketing tool is something every marketer should be paying attention to. With the initial release hiccups out of the way, keep an eye on sponsorship-focused updates that are sure to be coming soon.