Game app Pokémon Go is revolutionizing marketing for businesses and nonprofits
In just a few weeks, Pokémon Go has already rewritten the rules of what a mobile app game can do. Using augmented reality (AR) technology, the app requires players (known in the game as Pokémon trainers) to travel to real-world locations to locate and virtually “capture” Pokémon, cartoon critters from the eponymous 1990s television series. When the game launched in the United States on July 7, few could have anticipated just how massive its popularity would become. According to data gathered just days after the game’s release by IT company SimilarWeb, Pokémon Go isn’t just a popular app. It’s the biggest mobile game the country has ever seen.
So what does Pokémon Go mean for nonprofits?
Locations within the game correspond to real world destinations. Called Pokéstops, the vast majority of these are open to the public, such as libraries, parks, museums, shopping centers, etc. Most of these locations are pre-loaded within the app, but many of them have been specifically requested, either by players or by the proprietors of the real life destinations, such as restaurants and retail stores. These places have the unique advantage of being able to take advantage of the increased foot traffic from Pokémon Go trainers, who often get hungry and thirsty (it was released in July, after all) on their quest to be the very best. And some enterprising store owners who don’t necessarily have the good fortune to be situated at a Pokéstop are still attracting the Pokécrowd by offering specials based on the player’s level in the game.
(Photo credit: Ellisha Marongelli)[/caption]
One way nonprofits can also leverage the power of Pokémon Go is by joining for-profit retailers and restaurants in making the most of these existing destinations. For example, not long after the app launched, The Virginia Zoo touted their many Pokéstops, as well as giving a shout-out to their real wildlife.
Attendance at the zoo increased dramatically, boosting ticket and concession revenue and introducing waves of new visitors to the zoo’s mission of conservation. In addition, the non-profit organization responsible for generating community and financial support for the zoo, the Virginia Zoological Society, now has the opportunity to appeal to many new potential members, volunteers, and donors. So if your nonprofit organization is looking to attract a large number of people at an event, consider holding that event somewhere that features a Pokéstop. If you want to really bring the crowds, consider having a member of your staff — because they are playing too! — spend just a couple of bucks to purchase a lure module to add to the Pokéstop, ensuring the location will become irresistible to players. If circumstances and/or logistics prevent you from being able to hold your own event near Pokéstops, then go where the players are! For example, if your nonprofit’s mission is finding homes for shelter pets, take those pets on a walk by some Pokéstops! Wear a t-shirt or carry a sign that features your nonprofit logo and have some material ready to hand out to interested individuals. Another way nonprofits can ride the wave of Pokémon popularity is by capitalizing on the competitiveness between the teams. As players level up, they are given the chance to join one of three teams: Valor, Mystic, and Instinct. Rivalry between these teams is fierce as the players are pitted against the other teams for control of locations called gyms.
(Photo credit: Ellisha Marongelli)
Since each team strives to be the very best, players are constantly trying to outdo one another. Nonprofits can join the fun while raising money for your nonprofit than using a tip jar to accept donations at an event. Hosting a 5k race? Put the tip jars at the sign-up table! These are just a few of the ways that nonprofits can get in the spirit of the game while fundraising, promoting awareness, attracting new donors, and serving constituents. With recently-announced upgrades and new functionality being released soon, Pokémon Go is sure to continue to heat up even as temperatures cool down. So get out there and catch ’em all! (Donors, that is.)