Pokémon Go Finally Gets Augmented Reality Right

We here at Target Marketing have tried to get behind augmented reality on several occasions. I even once said “of course QR Codes are gonna work, it just makes sense!” Scott Stratten said they killed kittens. Turns out he was right. So imagine my chagrin to see Pokemon — a bunch of Bulbasaurs and Jigglypuffs led by an electric rat — role out an augmented reality experience that conquered the world in less than a week.

We here at Target Marketing have tried to get behind augmented reality (AR) on several occasions. QR Codes on the cover, Layar throughout the issue, some goofy stuff in our digital editions …

I even once said, “Of course QR Codes are gonna work, it just makes sense!” Scott Stratten said they killed kittens. Turns out he was right.

So imagine my chagrin to see Pokémon — a bunch of Bulbasaurs and Jigglypuffs led by an electric rat — roll out an augmented reality experience that conquered the world in less than a week.

Pokémon Go leaves Tindr too wet to light, aiming for Twitter next.
Pokémon Go leaves Tindr too damp to light, aiming for Twitter next.

In less than a week, the free Pokémon Go app, available on Android, iOS and the Nintendo DS handheld game, is on its way past Twitter in active users, and already bigger than Tindr. (Does that mean Millennials prefer catching Charizards to dating?)

And the player base isn’t so much kids (although there’s a lot of them too), but young adults who grew up with the earlier Pokémon games.

What does all of that mean for marketers? Here are five things I’ve learned watching the electric yellow rat take over the world … again.

1. There’s a Way to do Augmented Reality Right

I think a lot of marketers have seen that, when it comes to augmented reality, just because you build it does not mean they’ll come. The novelty of augmented reality isn’t enough, and neither is getting a piece of your web content launched from a ketchup bottle or whatever else your trigger is.

Pokémon Go is a game that asks players to walk around outside to capture Pokémon hiding out in he world. And players are doing that! Social media is full of jokes about the fact that young adults are running around all over cities and the suburbs to catch Pokémon. It’s working.

How is that different from what we did in Target Marketing magazine? Or even what Google offered with Google Glass? Well for starters it’s an experience that is 100 percent designed to be augmented reality. Pokémon go doesn’t treat AR as just a way to access existing content on a new device, it is an AR-only experience. If you want those Pokémon, you have to take your phone for a walk.

It’s also a very novel experience that’s put together well. Nantic Labs, the company that actually developed the game for Nintendo, has been doing similar games for a long time. They know how to deliver an experience that gets the best out of the platform. That’s essential to a successful AR experience.

2. Grant the Wish

An article on Vox made a great point about why this game is such a hit with young adults:

Pokémon Go is an attempt at realizing what fans always wanted from Pokémon … Since the games came out for Nintendo’s handheld consoles, fans all around the world have shared a dream: What if Pokémon weren’t limited to the games’ world? What if they were real and inhabited our world? What if we could all be Ash Ketchum, the TV show’s star trainer, who wanders the world in his quest to catch them all and earn his honors by defeating all the gym leaders? I want a Pikachu in real life, dammit!
—”Pokémon Go Explained,” German Lopez, Vox

Every market has an ungranted wish. If you can find that wish and make it come true, they will love you for it.

Pokémon Go lets fans who grew up watching these cartoons and playing these games break that wall they never could and hunt Pokémon in real life.

What does your target market want that no one’s ever been able to give them? Maybe it’s not a specific thing, but a way to access a product or service, like Uber putting taxis at the tap of an app. Maybe it’s an experience they could never have before, like Pokémon Go.

Identify that wish and think hard about how you could do it. You may have five or 10 years of new technology to make something happen that no one realized could be done before.

3. No, You Can’t Buy a Pokéstop

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

14 thoughts on “Pokémon Go Finally Gets Augmented Reality Right”

  1. Decades ago I took my kids when they were young to the Pokémon movie — the worst film I have EVER seen. I have never understood the attraction but my kids and all their friends loved it.

      1. It’s dangerous. Young adults walk around or drive at night concentrating on the game and ignoring other pedestrians and cars.

  2. Where did you find a Bulbasaur? I found a Jigglypuff already…

    Seriously though…I do have a Jigglypuff.

    However, back to AR. I have seen some really neat stuff done with it and I love its use in PoGO. I have researched using it in a book recently and found that, if you’re not DIY, the vendor pricing structures are geared toward using it on DM or tracking usage or response. It would be great if there were more flexible pricing structures and maybe you’d see it in a lot more fun, unexpected places. Use it on a menu so the patron can see a special dish being prepared, maybe or a video where Guy Fieri visited your Diner, Drive-In or Dive?

    Now excuse me, I think there’s a Squirtle under my co-worker’s desk.

    1. The menu example is the kind of use case we’ve been talking about for a while, but I don’t think they’ve really taken off. I’ve seen a lot of “cool” things done with it, but I’ve never seen a lot of people actually use the AR experiences offered. In fact I think the best way to do the video menu things is actually touchscreens on tables, not AR.

      PoGo seems to work precisely because it’s a thing on itself, it’s not expanding on something else. It’s adding a different environment and experience that almost all of Pokemon’s customers have always wanted to play in. I think that’s the key.

      1. I agree, the AR option is used but its a bit more obvious your out and about catching invisible monsters. I tend to turn off AR mode because of this exact reason but also easier to be sneaky with it when im places i shouldnt be playing lol.

        I have a feeling once the watch gets released the AR mode will be used even less because you will rarely have to look at your phone to check out pokestops or catch pokemon you already caught.

  3. They did a great job marketing this, bringing old Pokemon lovers back to it, I feel there a lot of those who fell out because they were “too cool” are now grown up and realize they can be themselves are all taking advantage of this. It is too bad that businesses are unable to purchase Pokestops/Gyms though, that would be insane for inbound marketing, plus Nantic can make tons of money this way im sure.

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