Finding Truth in Augmented Reality

It may have taken awhile, but certain trend-savvy advertisers have finally figured out something I have known for years:

Pokémon can be used to achieve REAL marketing results.

In my case, real marketing results means “selling” my young-ish son on the merits of brushing his teeth without complaining, and is achieved by bribing him with an irresistible deck of brand new Pokémon cards. Conversely, persuading him to perform this task using actual toothpaste is achieved by threatening to take said cards away. This is advanced stuff.

Anyway, these aforementioned advertisers are now using Pokémon (in the form of Augmented Reality, or “AR”) to get customers to do what THEY want—enter their stores. In fact, in the 9 months since Pokémon Go has taken over our smartphones, streets and lives, the app has garnered over 500 million visits to partnered retailers. It’s amazing; while these strange, virtual creatures may be completely fake, the results are anything but.

For example, when a local pizzeria in New York spent just $10 to have a dozen Pokémon “appear” in their restaurant, they saw a 75% increase in sales over one weekend. That’s a lot of pepperoni. And the Denver Zoo proved this could be done at a larger scale, investing $380 in lures while offering a $5 discount to those with Pokémon Go on their phones over a summer weekend. Their $380 investment saw a return of $58,000 as they had over 5000 more visitors than the same weekend the previous year. Coincidence? Well, of those 5000 extra visitors, 4845 of them showed up with the Pokémon Go app, so I think it’s safe to say it isn’t.

So if you’re an advertiser, here are three things to keep in mind when looking at this new medium:

1.  Embrace the newness. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of any new marketing opportunity that comes your way. After all, if potential customers are already gathering someplace, shouldn’t you be there as well?

2.  Be compelling. Remember, we’re still talking about advertising. And no matter if it’s AR, digital, DRTV or a thinly disguised threat to your Pokémon-obsessed son, successful marketing has always required a reason to buy in.

3.  Be prepared. The lure of a cool new “AR Experience” could deliver a level of traffic you’re unaccustomed to. But if that affects your ability to provide your typical level of quality? Well, word travels fast these days.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a run to the store for another deck of Pokémon cards. This marketing technique might seem expensive, but the ROI is off the charts.