Pokémon Go is a bona fide worldwide phenomenon. It’s easy to understand why: it’s dead simple to play, it’s deeply interactive in a way most games can’t be, and it encourages repeat play through some of the most engaging principles in game design (badges, open world design, online competition).
With this new generation of Pokémon fever comes a great opportunity for businesses with a physical location to take advantage of the game’s popularity while it lasts. I figure you have just a couple of weeks to do so before you’ll seem like you’re late to the party. No one is still posting reactions to Beyonce’s suprise album Lemonade, which was a cultural phenomenon of it’s own just a few months ago. The moment has passed.
Here’s your simple plan for taking advantage of Pokémon Go, for free:
1. Download the game and set up your account (you will log in via Google). I would recommend creating a username that matches or reflects your brand.
2. Start playing in and around your business. You might find that your business has been designated a PokéStop or Gym (although you would likely have seen endlessly wandering players by now), which is out of your control. You will be able to pay to include your location on the game map, but I don’t recommend that in most cases (see below).
You’ll find your first Pokémon the first time you play. Take a screenshot before you capture it: that’s your first social media post, letting players know they’re welcome to search there.
Explore a bit outside your business, including the surrounding neighborhood. Look on your map for nearby PokéStops or Gym markers. You can note all of the nearby opportunities to play the game in a second social media post, if you find you’re in an area dense with map markers.
3. Continue playing to earn rewards (such as Incense and Lures) that you’ll need for the next step. You can find how many bottles of Incense and other items you have by clicking on the Pokéball, then on Items. Your experience playing the game will give you something to chat about with these players in real life, helping forge a connection beyond the game.
4. Create an event and use Incense or Lures to draw extra Pokemon, and in turn players, to your location. Incense works in 30 minute bursts, so you have to let people know when you’ll be using them. Take a lesson from my friends at the Food Bank RGV, who are doing just that. If you can get multiple players to come and drop more Incense, you can make it a must-attend event for players.
There are two types of items that can draw players to your location, Incense and Lures. Incense follows the player wherever they go, and Lures are stationary. Both last 30 minutes. They both can be purchased from the in-game store (click on your Pokéball, then Store) as well.
4. Organize a Pokémon Walk in your neighborhood. You’ve likely heard about rogue players wandering onto private property or dangerous situations. Plan an organized group walk on a safe, set route (or in an enclosed area such as a park). Have walk leaders use Incense to draw extra monsters to your route as well (see above).
Consider coordinating with neighboring businesses so you can offer multiple stops along your route. I would suggest hosting a pre or post-walk party back at your business with snacks and other appropriate goodies (maybe a Pokémon raffle?).
5. Monitor your notifications for Pokémon Go-related posts from your customers. It will get annoying if you share/retweet too many of them, so select a few clever, fun posts carefully instead.
Most Businesses Won’t Need To Pay To Advertise on Pokemon Go
Niantic, the game’s designers, will “soon” include the option for businesses to pay to be featured on the game’s map. By the time this is available, it will be pointless and impractical for most businesses. We are already near the peak of Pokemon fever, and the hype will die down in a matter of weeks.
At that point (with the exceptions of family entertainment centers, video game retailers, comic book stores, etc), there will no longer be a reason to ride the Pokemon wave. The moment will pass.
That’s why it’s important to follow the steps above as soon as possible and enjoy this mid-summer boost. It costs only a bit of your time.