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Pokémon Go… to your nearest high street retailers today!

20 July 2016

UPDATE: Since time of writing, the match between high street brands and Pokémon Go has gone ‘official’, as the app has announced McDonalds as the launch brand for sponsored locations.

This update is beginning in Japan, and will allow around 3,000 restaurants the chance to create their own ‘Gym’ locations to help attract hungry customers looking to add a Big Mac to their Pokémon collection.

What exactly is a ‘Gym’, and why is this a big deal? Read on to find out more!

 

The future of augmented reality is here, and it looks distinctly like the late 90’s.

Pokémon Go has been officially released in the UK, and if you’ve not already downloaded it, you’re probably either:

1: Of an age where these weird fluffy creatures don’t make any sense whatsoever.

2: Someone who never got into the whole ‘Pocket Monsters’ phenomenon in the first place.

3: In denial.

The little blighters with ridiculous names are popping up all over our cities, towns and even in our homes, in a cultural invasion of Britain not seen since, well, the first time Pokémon showed up on our shores.

It’s alright, their motives are believed to be benevolent. For now.

For the handful of people still unaware of this phenomenon (or for those who’ve downloaded one of the many ‘Go-Blocker’ extensions on Chrome), Pokémon Go is a game that uses your phone’s geo-caching tech to find Pokémon in real world locations, and see them through your phone using an augmented reality filter.

Catch as many Pokémon as you can for bragging rights, or use them to battle for control of certain locations designated as ‘Gyms’, in a virtual tug-of-war.

Basically, it’s the realisation of every 90’s kid’s dream of being an actual, real life, wandering-through-fields-of-tall-grass Pokémon Trainer, catching various cartoon critters.

Except you do this with your smartphone in hand instead of a smart-ass talking Wikipedia device.

It’s currently the most downloaded app for iOS and Google Play app stores, and smashed the record for fastest climb to the top previously held by the recent Clash Royale game.

In fact, the app’s developer Niantic have made more than £1 million globally in just a few days since its release, and at the time of writing, people are spending more time daily on Pokémon Go than any social media app. 

‘Great - enough waxing lyrical about your nostalgia overdose, what does this have to do with brands?’ …I hear you say.

Well, consider walking down your high street, and seeing a sign saying something like this:

“Spend over £30 and gain access to a special edition Charizard!”

Or maybe…

“Pop round and catch our new Reeboks – perfect for running after Rattatas around industrial estates.”

Or how about…

“Walk into too many doors chasing those ghost Pokémon? Two-for-one on all bandages and plasters in-store!”

That’s right, our near future could be filled with high street brands and retailers fuelling new business by literally bribing people with shiny new Pokémon.

Sponsored locations being added to the game is not just a possibility, it’s something that’s been hard-coded into the app from the beginning, and John Hanke, the CEO for Niantic, has confirmed that sponsored locations would feature in the future.  

Despite an initially cynical outlook of a heavily marketed game being used for even further marketing, it is a genuinely exciting time for high street retailers.

When a new development for mobile apps usually means an even smoother way to shop online, this new app has gotten people to wander right past the brick and mortar shops that they’ve previously sought to avoid like a quarantined zone.

The power of the Pokémon name has gotten people to take the scenic route home, pay attention to different shops at new parts of the high street, and even appreciate their own home town or city in a whole new light.

“Welcome to your 500-year-old local library. Come for the Pokémon. Stay for the books and the history…wait, where are you going, come back…”

Shopkeepers and retailers are already employing some clever ways to catch these avid Pokémon catchers, creating an odd metagame scenario for businesses.

L’inizio Pizza Bar in New York used an in-game lure mechanic to attract more Pokémon to his establishment, and as a result, lure more customers too – 75% more customers, in fact.

As for the much-touted Augmented Reality the game uses? Let’s be honest, it’s not the most technically impressive gear on display.

Essentially, the app super-imposes a 3D model over your camera feed. Living in the heady world of snapchat face-morphing filters, it’s hardly ground-breaking.

Then again, it doesn’t really need to be a technically impressive app, or even a very good game.

The real world scavenger hunt concept has already achieved its goal of getting more people out and about, exploring their local environments.

Besides, it’s Pokémon. Slap the name on a cardboard box with empty crisp packets and it’ll sell by the truckload.

All of this proving two points – one, that a brand name can still be a powerful force, and two, a clever concept backed up by a big brand name can conquer the world.

 

Strawman Says

Pokémon Go can direct people to anywhere in the world it wants. The holy grail of party tricks that retailers have been seeking for years, ever since the pesky internet started taking their customers.