Article

Rupert Harrison
Rupert Harrison 25 July 2016

Pokémon Geo-targeting: Want to Catch ‘em All? Retailers Do Too

Pokémon Go is going commercial. With the announcement that its developers are set to let companies advertise on its virtual map, Rupert Harrison at Zeta Interactive, looks at the benefits of geo-targeting for brands both on the game and away.

There is no doubt that this summer will be remembered as the one dedicated to Pokémon Go. The smash-hit mobile game sees players chasing the cartoon characters on a customised version of Google Maps, scanning real-world locations to capture Pokémon and add them to their collection. 

The game is proving a massive hit with tech-savvy millennials who grew up in Pokémon’s heyday, and its UK launch last week was so hotly anticipated that servers crashed as millions tried to access the app.

Last week, its developers announced that they are planning to give brands a bite of the Cherubi by letting companies advertise on the game’s virtual map through “sponsored locations”. With McDonalds reportedly already on board, the monetisation of the game is a huge opportunity for brands to capitalise on location-based marketing.

Keeping it local

Whether through Pokémon Go or more traditional avenues, brands everywhere are keen to tap into geo-targeting. Although not all businesses will have the capacity or the need to advertise on the game, it’s clear that location-based marketing is a huge growth area for marketers across the board.

It’s ironic, then, that geo-targeting is in fact the oldest form of marketing in existence. Before the internet took over, we bought our meat from our local butcher, not Tesco.  Books came from the local bookshop, not Amazon. Marketing has come full circle, and hyper-localisation is now firmly back in fashion.

The marketing map 

Location based marketing, when done well, makes the consumer’s life easier. By knowing where they are, their favourite brands can almost take the decision of which product or service to buy out of their hands by offering them something they know they like that is convenient and close at hand.

For example, if a consumer is near a coffee shop that they have a loyalty card for, they could receive a personalised message encouraging them to pop in for a free hot drink.

And with our ever-increasing reliance on smartphones, consumers are ‘always on’ and therefore always open to shopping. So while the purchase process used to be sequential, with an offer posted to a customer resulting in a purchase in store the next day, increased access and contextual insights enable timely and relevant purchase opportunities - meaning consumers are much more likely to engage whilst on-the-go.

It’s clear that this turbo-charged, digital version of location-based marketing offers opportunities like never before. So what should businesses looking to target based on coordinates bear in mind?

Capturing the customer journey

One of the key benefits of location based marketing is that it gives brands a fuller view of the customer journey. By blurring the line between the “real” world and the digital one, the data capture opportunities are bigger and better than ever before.

This means brands can tailor messages in a much more personal and relevant way, predicting and delivering appropriate content and product offerings to their customers. In turn, this improves the customer’s experience of the brand, develops loyalty among consumers and drives conversion rates.

There’s also a huge potential for augmented reality. In the ultimate gamification of brand experience, businesses can overlay their content on the real world. It’s a win-win situation, helping to bring the consumer ever closer to a brand, while for the customer, it provides exciting content, enjoyment, and utility.


For example, a customer could really see how that couch would “fit” into their space, viewing it in situ before committing to purchase. Not only would this improve the decision making process for the customer, but could also decrease the likelihood of brands receiving returns from unwanted items.

It’s not just online retailers that stand to benefit. Inevitably, savvy location-based marketing will drive incremental footfall into stores – and allow brands to capitalise on impulse purchases like never before.

Too close for comfort? 

But there’s a fine line between being helpful and being intrusive. Useful is your supermarket of choice serving you ads announcing it has just opened on your local high street, or your favourite clothes shop alerting you to an in-store sale.

But what if a pub chain tracked its customers every time it sensed them leaving the office, sending them a text message persuading them to come for a pint? The misplaced intention and persistence is unlikely to convert them into a potential punter.

The marketed message must be relevant to the customer. If brands engage in location based marketing in an unrestricted fashion, customers will quickly be deluged – and it could kill off the channel before it has become fully established.

Transparency is key

Snooping is an obvious concern for the customer, particularly as privacy issues and a perceived lack of transparency about how data is used has left some consumers reluctant to divulge anything that doesn’t immediately enhance their engagement with a brand.

Brands must be careful to offer some form of opt-in, and ensure the customer knows exactly what they are signing up to, what a brand will do with their data and how this will benefit them personally. It’s imperative that brands help the customer to understand that the benefits of data sharing outweighs the risks, and that their personal information will only be used to provide them with a better customer experience. 

How to catch ‘em all

Brands need to be clear, then, about what data they are using and to what end. Striking the right tone is also crucial to building that trust between companies and their customers. If done properly and carefully, it will provide a complete picture of the customer, allowing location-based marketing to flourish – and ultimately becoming something brands are expected to provide. The Pokémons are just a bonus.  

Dennison Packer
Dennison Packer

I love the idea that local businesses can use the game to target and incentivise players in the vicinity. But what I don't love is my assumption that it'll only be the bigger brands and chains who are able to afford it, just like exhibit a) McDonald's. For me, in order for marketing to truly come "full circle" then smaller businesses should absolutely be offered an affordable slice of the pie.

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