The latest rage taking over the nation is a mobile app called Pokémon Go. If you don’t already know about it, here’s the gist: the app uses geolocation and a form of augmented reality to help users “find” Pokémon characters in the real world. Say I am using the app walking on Main Street downtown, my phone would buzz, and I could use my camera to find and “capture” a Pokémon creature. Despite how terribly unhip I sound to my teenage son describing this, there are definitely some lessons marketers can learn from this phenomenon:

Augmented Reality is Poised to go Mainstream

I’ve written about augmented reality in past years, but it really hasn’t reached it’s tipping point yet, as it is still a tough platform to crack from a development standpoint. I think that the rage of Pokémon Go (at least until people start getting injured due to this app!) will be able to position augmented reality as a reality for marketers. The key is to make the integration natural and serve a purpose. Augmented reality is seamlessly integrated into Snapchat, where the vast majority of the audience doesn’t view the application as anything more than a “filter.”

Some of the most effective augmented reality apps I’ve seen interact with your current surroundings – to measure if furniture will fit or what a paint color will look like on a door. Retailers are poised to take great advantage of this, whether to see how items would look in someone’s house, how a dress would look on them, where items are in a grocery store (complete with how they were sourced), or where an ATM or storefront is positioned in a city you are visiting. See what Lowes has done with the “Holoroom” below:

Geolocation has Tremendous Potential for all types of Businesses

The simple feature of your phone buzzing/beeping when you are near a Pokémon is, in my opinion, a vastly underlooked feature for mobile and app engagement. The Living Social app uses this sort of functionality to let me know when there is a deal nearby, but honestly it’s the same deal every time. By integrating geofencing (like a virtual barrier based on GPS) and other technology, marketers can alert customers of “flash sales” or other promotions that can promote immediate point of purchase conversion.

Additionally, what is so magical about Pokémon Go is how the virtual world and the physical world interact. Where you physically are positioned can dictate your brand experience. This can be a little creepy at times, but when paired with gamification, it makes the user immersed in the experience, and other interactions with brands along the way will feel like part of the experience. Wouldn’t you like an ice-cold Mountain Dew Fruitista Freeze from Taco Bell while you’re hunting monsters?

Freemium Content will Resonate with the Audience if the Platform is Engaging

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Apps have repeatedly proven this, and the top 36 apps in the App Store are free, with in-app purchases. Brands are getting to where you can no longer expect someone to buy your product without first trying it, or at least putting a little skin in the game. Pokémon Go is the top downloaded free app and the top grossing app. They made their platform in a way that you wanted more, and were willing to pay for the benefits and the full experience.

Business marketing content makers have known this (or should have known this) for years. Blogs, whitepapers, webinars, etc. are expected to be free. If the platform is engaging enough, and the content is good enough, people will return for more or will engage your services as you’ve positioned yourself as a subject matter expert.


Look, the jury is still out on this game. It may prove to be dangerous, as people wander in front of cars trying to catch a Pikachu, or it may be the answer to the US obesity epidemic (I wouldn’t count on that). But it is, from a technology standpoint, the most mainstream application of augmented reality and geolocation that we’ve seen yet, and may be the tipping point for exposure to these very useful marketing technologies.