From The Blog

How to Engage Your Audience: Lessons from Pokémon Go11 min read

Sep 12, 2016

Within days of its launch, Pokémon Go had more user engagement than Facebook and outpaced Twitter’s number of daily users. This augmented reality game, in which users have to physically move around to try to capture and hatch Pokémon, drew hordes of people to locations where certain types of Pokémon were known to be waiting, so that engagement with the game led to engagement between players and between players and the locations to which they flocked.

So, what does an augmented reality game have to do with marketing other types of businesses? The answer lies in how we can learn to get audience members engaged with our businesses and brands by engaging with the new media formats of mixed, augmented, and virtual reality.

One digital agency, Huge, operates a café in Atlanta, and used Pokémon Go to generate foot traffic by purchasing “Lures,” which would draw certain types of Pokémon to their location. Over the course of the first week after Pokémon Go launched, Huge Café saw a 400% return on their investment as Pokémon Go players stopped in to get coffee, to recharge their phone batteries, and to escape the Atlanta heat after walking for hours trying to catch Pokémon. Huge gave out cards for free steamed buns to players who showed their captured Pokémon, creating a real-world reward to match the virtual reward of a captured Pokémon. Like Starbucks, which offered free WiFi to users, Huge created incentives so players who approached their business looking for Pokémon would be converted from incidental visitors into customers.

The successful strategy of Huge Café gives us our first big lesson from Pokémon Go: Learn to engage incidental visitors. Mixed, augmented, and virtual reality experiences like Pokémon Go may bring large numbers of visitors to locations for a purpose other than that of the businesses whose locations they are visiting. You can choose to discourage visitors who are not primarily there to engage with your business, or you can turn the increased foot traffic to your advantage by creating a positive experience that could earn you return customers. Because Pokémon Go is just the beginning of a new wave of augmented reality media experiences, fighting this new trend is going to be a losing battle. Success, particularly in the digital marketing landscape, is about adaptability. Exploring ways to engage with augmented and virtual reality and its users will allow you to ride this wave toward new opportunities for audience engagement.

The second lesson we can learn from Pokémon Go is to understand how the virtual world and the physical world interact. As Huge Café found, mixed and augmented reality apps like Pokémon Go create a hybrid experience: the user remembers both the Pokémon she caught and what was happening in the real world around her when she caught it. Creating a positive situation for the real-world half of the experience creates a positive association with your business for your potential customers. Not only will you be investing in potential repeat customers, but you will be generating positive word-of-mouth as those users turn to social media to document their experiences.

Our final lesson from Pokémon Go is about timing: Use windows of opportunity provided by augmented reality to engage otherwise distant audiences. The number of specific Pokémon Go users dropped sharply after the novelty of the game wore off, but the huge influx of users at the beginning offered an opportunity to interact with a large group of users who could not be reached through other means, like social media marketing. The best way to take advantage of this opportunity for engaging incidental visitors is to anticipate and plan for upcoming mixed, augmented, and virtual reality games and apps.

A study by Goldman Sachs anticipates that augmented/virtual reality technology could be “as game changing as the advent of the PC,” with use cases for gaming accounting for less than half of the projected market. This technology is expected to become an increasingly important part of our lives, both in entertainment and business. Taking lessons from forerunners like Pokémon Go will be a valuable asset as this industry moves forward.

So, if you’re interested in collaborating with our digital strategists for new ways to excite and engage your customers, clients or patients, contact the Mockingbird Creative team today by calling 479.802.4954 or emailing