I think it’s safe to say that Pokemon Go has burst onto the scene in kind of a big way. As someone that didn’t grow up around Pokemon, I initially didn’t take much interest in the launch of Pokemon Go last week. As more and more people got on board (despite the fact that the game isn’t officially launched in Canada yet), I decided that it was worth looking at.

As trends emerge, people are always quick to jump on board the “how can this trend be applied to marketing and driving more traffic to my business?” train. We’ve even had a few calls from clients and potential clients that are interested in using Pokemon Go to help market their business.  As a digital marketing agency, we do our best to stay on top of digital trends and happenings. We’ve ventured into the AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) world before while working with Fort Edmonton Park and Tourism Red Deer and continue to move forward through some additional projects currently under construction. The idea of an AR game like Pokemon Go is kind of interesting and the fact that a juggernaut like Nintendo is behind it makes it even more intriguing. If there’s ever an application that can introduce AR to the masses, this is it.

Over the past few days, we’ve spent a bit of time trying Pokemon Go out. We’ve caught some strange looking creatures, found our local PokeStops (there are two within a few hundred metres of our office) and have even managed to move up a few levels in the game.  We’ve also spent some time investigating some of the in-game purchases.

The concept is pretty simple – load up the application on your phone, grant it access to your location and camera, and then go hunting for Pokemon characters. Once you come in contact with one, you use your PokeBall throwing skills to snag the creature. Don’t worry.. up until a few days ago, I had no idea what any of that meant either. Over the course of the game, you collect points, PokeBalls, eggs and other treasures. You’ll also come across PokeStops, PokeGyms and a whole lot of people wandering aimlessly with their eyes glued to their phones.

The “how can it drive business crowd” has been interested in “lures”. Lures are in-game purchases that can be placed at PokeStops. These attract Pokemon to the PokeStop and allow anyone within striking distance to catch them. Each lure lasts for 30 mins and is visible to all players in the area. When a lure is activated, the PokeStop starts blowing virtual pink confetti. Lures are available as singles or in packs of eight. Based on my scientific Pokemon Gold to Canadian Dollars calculation, I figure each lure costs around $3.

SCM Pokemon Lures

If businesses have a PokeStop nearby and spend a few bucks on lures, they could (in theory) attract Pokemon to their location. If local Pokemon Go players see this collection of Pokemon hanging out down the street, they could (in theory) be inclined to pay the area a visit. They then could decide (in theory) to stop at the “luring” business for a drink, sandwich, a new shirt, etc. Lures seem like an interesting idea.. but do they work? There’s only one way to find out…

We just spent a lunch hour “luring” Pokemon players to PokeStops near our office. Yes.. I know that sounds creepy. Our office is located in an area that typically sees a lot of daytime foot traffic, and we’ve noticed some Pokemon players wandering around in recent days.

We set up shop in a park down the street from our office at around 12:15 PM. There are two PokeStops nearby, and we noticed that someone else had already put a lure down at one of them. There were 3 or 4 people in the park taking advantage of the lure and the Pokemon that it attracted. We decided to put a lure up at the other PokeStop and double everyone’s fun. After a few minutes of Googling “how to set up a Pokemon lure”, we were fully operational. The original lure expired shortly after that so we reactivated it using one of our own. Sure enough.. players in the park took notice and were soon drawn to our lures. After about 15 minutes of watching people come and go, we decided to move down the street to another location.

PokeStop in Downtown Edmonton

We found a PokeStop close to the Legislative Building. The area is a very popular lunch/afternoon walk spot. We placed a lure at a PokeStop near the transit centre. Again.. within a matter of minutes, people found their way to the area and starting catching the Pokemon that we helped attract. We sat at the transit centre for a while and were pretty impressed by the number of people stopping and engaging. Our lunch break was wrapping up so we walked back past our original lures and eventually made it back to the office.

So.. what did we learn? Although our sample size was fairly small, we learned quite a bit…

  1. Do lures work? – I think so. It’s tough to figure out if people were just passing by or if they were attracted to the area based on the lure. We might need to revisit each area without lures and see if the same number of people engage with the game. Based on our super scientific calculations, 15 – 20 people stopped and engaged with the game in our target lure areas within about 45 minutes.
  2. Do lures work? (Part 2) – The one thing we did notice is that lures seemed to get people to stick around for a while. Players knew that these locations were producing Pokemon at a steady pace. Many just set up shop near the lure and collected characters as they appeared. If a business were to use lures to attract potential customers, I’d be curious to see if these people actually interact with the business or just hang around outside grabbing Pokemon.
  3. Who stopped? – Hey ladies… looking for a way to attract the man of your dreams? You might want to invest in some Pokemon lures. Everyone that we saw engaging with the game was male between 25 – 40 years old. If a business is looking to attract that particular demographic, it might be an interesting (and affordable) experiment.
  4. Who stopped? (Part 2) – Most players were clearly in the area for another reason (unless they like to dress up and wear security access cards as a hobby). Pokemon was something to do on a break or while in transit to somewhere else.
  5. Was it fun? – Catching Pokemon got old pretty fast. I found setting out lures and watching people more fun than actually playing the game. I’m sure there will be additions to the game in time, and they might be required to keep the attention of players. Keep this in mind – lots of people thought Foursquare was fun.. for a few months. I remember being genuinely excited when I became the mayor of a local Tim Hortons. Oh 2010… those were the days…

Spending a lunch hour luring people was pretty interesting. Sure it sounds creepy, but we were able to gain some insights into Pokemon Go and the players that participate. We’ve still go some more lures and plan on heading out again in the coming weeks.

Is Pokemon Go here to stay? I have no idea. We might look back on the summer of 2016 and laugh about how we all chased invisible characters around the streets of Edmonton. My guess is we’ll look back at Pokemon Go one day and recognize it as a pioneer in bringing AR to the masses. Probably not the legacy that they’re hoping for but an important one nonetheless.

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Post Written By:

Brian Siddle

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