By now, it's official. Pokemon Go has reached its cultural tipping point: it doesn't merely have fans, it has haters. Lots of them. But for a business world eager for the next big thing, its fans greatly outnumber its detractors.
Phones at advertising agencies have been ringing off the hook, and brands are all asking the same question: How can we get in on this?
While there are some hacks available already, like lures and popup stores, the game's maker, Niantic, has also announced that it will soon sell sponsored locations. This was to be expected. With its mildly popular game Ingress, for example, the company allowed sponsorships, and some brands bought in.
Of course, many people are going to urge caution about this. Brands will be told to move slowly, lest they alienate players. Gamers, we'll hear, do not want to be distracted and will react negatively to any interference with their experience.
Happily, this is one of many ways in which Pokemon Go defies conventional wisdom. Augmented reality games tend to be vastly more kinetic and social than console or PC video games. Part of the fun is becoming immersed in your surroundings, talking with others, and enjoying a new (or familiar but forgotten) place.
In addition, AR gamers have needs. They are out and about. Some plan poorly. They may be hungry or thirsty--or simply have forgotten to bring an umbrella on a rainy day. Not surprisingly, small businesses that woke up to find themselves near Pokemon gyms have done a roaring trade.
That's why it's a good idea to start thinking about your Pokemon Go strategy now.
While we're not sure exactly how it will work, "sponsored locations," seems to indicate that you'll be able to do something special in particular places in the real world.
If so, brands are probably looking at a combination of street teams and a smart media strategy.
You'll need to provide an experience at your location that helps or enhances gamers' enjoyment. A brand that gets it might provide sports drinks in Pokemon colors to refresh players. That would be appreciated.
A brand that uses its location to force players to watch a new TV spot would not be. You'll need to translate that great experience into something larger. This is the hard part. Pokemon Go players are typically locals, and many locations will simply not have the scale to attract a large number of players.
Smart media strategy
As a result, a well-balanced media strategy should also be in place. This could either involve promoting the location to ensure plenty of traffic, or using social media to spread the good vibes that result from the positive experiences people have there.
To be clear, no one knows exactly what opportunities we'll have. What we do know is that, given the game's scale, brands and advertisers need get deeply familiar with it and start strategizing about its most likely possibilities.
That means we should all start playing today. See you around the neighborhood.