20 Jul 2016 18:53 IST

Lo! A poke to get customers going

The rate at which it is going viral, Pokémon Go can unlock the doors for marketers to attract more customers

The ‘Lo’ in the So Lo Mo (social, local, mobile) is getting activated in a big way, and it’s all thanks to some fictional creatures from the Pokémon universe.

Marketers have been trying for ages to leverage locational services in interesting ways to lure customers. Who’d have thought that it would be a game with bizarre characters inspired by dodos, dragons, sea horses, crabs and dinosaurs that would unlock the door for them to lay location traps?

For those coming in late to the party, Pokémon Go — the augmented reality game created by Nintendo and San Francisco-based developer Niantic — has led to a huge population of phone-gazing zombies wandering hither and thither trying to catch creatures like Pikachu (a rat) and Squirtle (a turtle). Pokémon, short for ‘Pocket Monsters’, was a huge franchise back in the 1990s.

The game

The game, which is GPS-enabled, requires users to turn their location services on. The users are players in the game and, as they walk around with their smartphone cameras turned on, they can see creatures pop up on the screen. These creatures could be anywhere, appearing in the garden, at the mall, or even in your kitchen. Players can then catch the creatures and train them for a ‘battle’ at the Pokémon gym, which, again, could be anywhere — a storefront, theatre, or even somebody’s house. (Apparently, a bewildered old man found a horde of Pokémon chasers standing outside his house staring at their screens, battling away!)

According to reports, game developers say that marketers can pay to become locations that will draw players, such as a Pokémon Gym or a PokéStop (where the player can buy things they need with actual money (in-app purchasing), such as Pokéballs or Lures, that will attract Pokémon. Just imagine the possibilities for a a retailer — they pay to be a Pokémon Gym and watch as hordes of Pokémon Go players swarm in to battle.

Some talented Pokémon Go players, upon inspecting the game’s code, pointed out that the McDonald’s logo is embedded in the app’s Android code. This sparked off speculation that the fast food joint could possibly become the game’s first brand tie-up.

Security

The possibilities are endless. Several enterprising marketers — such as FitBit makers — have already started organising PokéWalks.

For years, marketers, especially retailers, have been plotting to leverage location services, be it through Bluetooth, beacons and what not. But mobile phone users have largely been wary of keeping their location service on. And although there have been several successful case studies, the use of location-tracking services has not really achieved its expected potential because of the users’ privacy concerns. All that could change now.

Strangely enough, Pokémon Go users have happily surrendered to the game access to their location, the phone’s camera, data, their time zone and other services.

While the addiction to the game may seem inexplicable, Pokémon Go’s viral success has made the virtual and real worlds collide. It’s a true social network in the sense that it has pulled people from the indoors, drawn them out and connected them to the outdoors. What Facebook, Twitter and others could not achieve, Pokémon Go has. With dating site Project Fixup’s PokéDates, Pokémon Go might even take over from Tinder!

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