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The marketing opportunity Pokémon Go presents to restaurants

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, in a remote forest, or entirely off the grid for the past month – it’s likely you’ve at least heard a little bit about the mobile game phenomenon that’s been taking the world by storm: Pokémon Go. It is now the biggest game in the US, is reported to have made Nintendo $7.5 billion since it was launched in early July, and now has approximately 20 million users worldwide.

The augmented reality game allows players to use an app on their mobile phone to find and capture Pokémon in a real life environment – meaning that they have to physically walk to find Pokémon at different locations nearby. Lots of these locations are public places; supermarkets, churches, gyms and of course, restaurants. For many small and large restaurants, this has provided them with a unique opportunity to ‘capture’ themselves some more business.

This is because of the way that the game is set up, which ensures that Pokémon can be found at designated Pokéstops, many of which are local restaurants or retail businesses. That means that they are now subject to a natural increase in footfall as people crowd to these locations to capture their favourite Pokémon.

This is great news, and restaurants could have been happy just idly sitting by and watching the Pokémon players roll by, but for many of the reactive restaurants, this wouldn’t have been good enough. Instead, they have started to maximise their marketing around the game to draw as many new customers as possible.

We have seen lots of restaurants starting to post signage outside that encourages customers to come in to try and catch ‘em all, some are offering discounts for Pokémon go players, and some are running competitions which offer product or cash rewards in place of capturing a Pokémon in the restaurant and sharing it to their social media pages.
Some restaurateurs have even taken their savvy marketing one step further – and are starting to purchase a ‘lure’ within the game. The lure will draw in Pokémon players from around the surrounding area, with a promise of good and frequent Pokémon. However, it does cost the business actual money, so presumably will be eating away at the marketing budgets, but it has seen remarkable results for one London restaurant who suggest that having a £100 per day lure set up has increased their revenue by 26%. With Niantic’s CEO stating that they will soon be announcing paid advertising options for Pokémon Go, such as sponsored Pokéballs and the like, it may very well be a core part of restaurant marketing strategies for a long time.
Another way that businesses are benefitting is through the Pokémon Gyms. Whilst you can’t choose where the Pokémon Gym may be, for some businesses that can move – think street food – they are presenting a real opportunity. For those in the larger cities with a high concentration of Pokémon players, this can really work and there are many reports of it doing so. It has the added benefit of not requiring a paid budget, and simply needs the food truck to be able to move around to find the largest concentration of players – and potential customers – possible. Genius.

Of course, like anything else in the world of mobile app gaming, Pokémon Go will one day reach the end of its life cycle – but for restaurants, jumping on the trend and taking part in the reactive marketing is showing real results in the here and now, and that’s all that needs to matter.

Follow Shauna Madden:

Shauna is the Head of Content for Social Heroes. She has spent several years spearheading PR campaigns for giant companies in the North of the UK with incredible results.

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