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What Brands Can Learn From Pokémon Go

The free game’s meteoric rise is a significant shift in how users are embracing the link between digital and physical from their mobile devices, writes Arc’s John Dangles

By now you’ve heard of Pokémon Go. Everyone you know is talking about it. But just how big is Pokémon Go? Consider this: In less than a week, the free game will likely have more daily active users than Twitter.

Pokemon Go 2
image from: www.theverge.com

What is Pokémon Go?
What makes Pokémon Go special is its use of augmented reality, where Pokémon (an assortment of Japanese cartoon monsters, for the uninitiated) will appear as if they've been spotted in the real world. Users of the app have spent all week trying to catch new Pokémon and train them to be the very best. Along with collecting Pokémon, there are Poké Stops and Gyms pinned to real locations where players go to grab items and battle other Pokémon. Poké Stops and Gyms can be at a variety of locations from grocery stores to landmarks.

By the numbers
Pokémon Go has experienced unprecedented user growth in the few days following its release. This growth will likely increase significantly as the app is due for a greater global rollout (currently limited to those in U.S., Australia and New Zealand due to server overloads). Check out these numbers, from Joseph Schwartz at SimilarWeb:
• Only two days after the app’s release, it was already installed on 5.16% of all Android devices in the U.S.
• If that doesn’t seem like much, consider that after one day of being released, the game was already installed on more U.S. Android phones than Tinder.
• Over 60% of those who downloaded the app in the U.S. are using it daily, meaning around 3% of the entire U.S. Android population are users of the app.
• Two days after its release, the app was being used for an average of 43 minutes, 23 seconds a day, higher than Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

Pokemon Go 2
Central Park is overrun with people playing Pokémon GO. Image source: Twitter

Behavioral learnings and opportunities for brands
The rise of Pokémon Go marks a significant shift in how users are embracing the link between digital and physical through their mobile devices. There are a variety of opportunities for brands to make this connection for consumers. By leveraging augmented reality, brands can add digital overlays to the physical world to allow for product sampling outside of store locations, educate consumers on product uses or use a brand or product to provide general entertainment. Additionally, with beacon and GPS technology brands can share contextually relevant content and offers with consumers at key physical touchpoints.

Potential Pokémon Go opportunities
Given Pokémon Go’s significant active user base, brands may consider partnering with the game. Although Pokémon Go does not currently offer any branded opportunities, the game’s makers may be receptive to individual partnerships with brands. Sponsored Poké Stops and Gyms could offer traffic drivers for businesses with physical locations. Fast-food restaurants or coffee shops seem like a natural fit. Who wouldn’t want to have a bite to eat between battles? Furthermore, beacon technology could push contextually relevant content or promotions to users of the app at specific locations. Brands may also explore larger in-game experiences integrated with retailer locations, in-store displays or even with products.

As exciting as all these opportunities are, it is important to keep in mind that Pokémon Go is brand new and has not proven it can keep its active user base. Partnership opportunities are best served as a test and learn, at least until Pokémon Go proves to have legs.

John Dangles is a participation strategist with Arc Worldwide.