Mobile gaming in 2016 forever changed the way people use their smartphones. The reinvention of two different children’s media franchises, Pokémon and Mario, paved the way for some of the year’s biggest mobile advertising trends. However, it’s not just the popularity of Pokémon Go and Mario Run that is staggering. The important business implications and new opportunities for marketers to engage with audiences are the true game changers.
One of the first businesses to take advantage of the game as a marketing tool was Huge Cafe in Atlanta. This coffee shop is run by the Huge advertising agency as a pseudo-research facility, and the agency tested a new take on one of digital advertising’s most powerful units—value exchange. Customers were told to find a Pokémon near Huge that would be redeemable for a free cup of coffee. The agency saw an uptick in store traffic and sales, with an increase of over 27 percent in just one day. Many other cafes and restaurants eventually picked up on this out-of-game marketing tactic. In another instance, a local pizzeria in New York City saw sales increase by 75 percent by just spending $1.19 an hour on an in-game reward that lured Pokémon (and Pokémon Go players) to a single, physical location. By encouraging potential customers to engage with their business via a popular gaming app, Huge and other businesses saw higher amounts of in-store visits and sales.
While some may argue that Pokémon Go is running out of gas and Mario Run hasn’t created the expected stock bump for Nintendo, the business implications of these gaming phenomena will be long lasting. That, and maybe also the quirky fact that according to one report, Pokémon could even help you lose weight (1 lbs in 5 days by some estimates). Outside of helping customers achieve smaller waistlines, your brand can provide all types of value enhancing experiences via gaming and augmented reality (AR). The proliferation of these mobile gaming apps has taught us some great lessons on how to do it effectively:
1. Fish Where the Fish Are
Audiences are clearly spending quite a bit of time in mobile applications, with an average of three hours per day. Of that, on one day this summer, the average Pokémon Go player spent 33 minutes compared to 22 minutes on Facebook and 18 minutes on Snapchat. This statistic is not a Pokémon-only anomaly. Consumer time spent in gaming apps is sizable, representing a total of 15 percent according to Flurry. In fact, the average time spent in the popular app Game of War was measured at over two hours daily and users spent over 43 minutes per day playing Candy Crush. Importantly, users who spend time in games are more receptive to ads: according to Woobi, 66 percent of respondents want more opportunities to earn game rewards through ads.
2. Provide True Value to Consumers
With consumers spending so much active, engaged time in mobile apps, games become an ideal environment for advertisers to reach targeted audiences. And brands are still under-spending on mobile. On average, people spend 25 percent of their media time with mobile while brands only spend 12 percent of their ad budget in the medium. The solution requires more than an increase in mobile spending. Brands must spend the right way. They must create and deliver custom experiences that provide value. These experiences can include traditional product placement opportunities, as seen in games like Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood, that feature up-and-coming fashion and makeup brands. They can also include value exchange placements that provide custom rewards and missions.
Sephora’s chatbot in the messaging app Kik rewards people with exclusive mobile deals and discounts on products for completing short questionnaires. The benefit of this method is that the brand doesn’t need to create any additional infrastructure. The value exchange tactic encourages consumers to engage with the app in a way that is non-interruptive and on their own terms. Brands must be willing to work to create an immersive, emotional experience for audiences, and in exchange, they will receive genuine, human engagement.
3. Don’t be Afraid to Experiment
Pokémon Go became a bonafide global success because it fit seamlessly into the lives of its users. As people move around and make their way to work or school, Pokémon Go encourages them to find and battle Pokémon along the way. The app’s popularity shows how consumers are open and willing to integrate a mobile experience in their everyday lives. It has changed the way millions of people behave, which is something only a handful of companies can claim to have achieved.
How brands learn and apply lessons from these mobile apps remains to be seen, but the impacts have already been enormous. The AR technology application has disrupted the norms of mobile advertising, but also shown the flexibility of the mobile platform and the potential for even more creative ways for brands to engage with customers on the go. Mobile apps like Superhero Workout, where users have to do real-world exercises like arm punches and crunches to defeat enemies, and Ink Hunter, where users can create and try on custom tattoos, are also providing new opportunities for brands to reach their consumers using VR/AR technology. And with big companies like Facebook, Sony, Google, and HTC investing billions into VR hardware, this is just the beginning for VR/AR games.
As long as apps implement technology that is complementary and authentic to people’s real-world experiences, they will build a strong foundation for success. And if you weren’t convinced of the benefits of AR and gaming for your brand, at least now you know that Pokémon could help you lose weight too!