Pokémon Go Go Go! How to Use It at Your Business

July 20, 2016 • 9 min read
Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson


You’ve no doubt encountered at least one of many, many articles about how your small business can take advantage of this sudden and peculiar shift in the general public’s behavior with Pokémon local marketing tricks. And if you’re feeling all Poké’d out by now, we understand.

There’s no good data yet on how much using Pokémon local marketing has increased either foot traffic or sales for local businesses, but the anecdotal evidence is pretty compelling. Story after story about how a local business has been inundated, not just with Pokémon Go-ers, but with paying customers after hanging out a Pokémon Lure Module or offering a Poké-related deal. Even if the game turns out to be a fad, it’s a fad you really can use to get people in the door. Think of jumping on the Pokémon bandwagon as newsjacking.

Andrew's gfSmall Business Trends recently published a piece on what newsjacking is and how marketers (and small businesses) can use it. If you look at the two words that have been portmanteaued together to create it, newsjacking isn’t a mystery. It’s news that a marketer hijacks—meaning you “piggyback on breaking news stories in order to obtain otherwise unattainable visibility.”

This is, of course, exactly what many local businesses are doing—some of them really well—with Pokémon Go. Linking your business to the game, however, goes one better than most newsjacking, which usually means just getting your name out there. It’s a newsjacking opportunity that is uniquely suited to brick-and-mortar businesses.

What is Pokémon Go?

Here’s what all those folks wandering around in groups with their heads down are doing: Players (“trainers”) flock to locations where they can find and collect Pokémon, especially rare ones, and to “Gyms,” where they can team up on one of three teams (Instinct, Mystic, or Valor) and have their Pokémon fight other trainers’ teams. It’s not unlike an augmented reality version of a scavenger hunt.

In order to make the most of all these potential customers, you first need to find out where you are in relation to the nearest Pokéstop (where Pokémon to be collected lurk) and Gym. You’ll have to download the app, which is free. On the app’s map, Pokéstops are marked by a blue circle with a Pokéball in the middle; the closer you get, the bigger the Pokéball is. Far-away stops are represented by a floating cube. (There are maps proliferating all over the Internet, so it might be worth doing a search for one of your area.) Pokéstops are often interesting landmarks or community centers.

Pokémon Local Marketing

So, how can your business “hijack” the Poképalooza? Let us count the ways:

Eric.Nob HillLet folks know what Pokémon are in your area. There is an in-app camera so that players can snap pics of their finds. If you’ve got Pokémon hiding in or near your business, find them, and get a picture. You can post this to social media, print up a flyer and hang it in your window.

Drop Lures. Players can buy “Lure Modules” that will attract Pokémon (and thus players looking for them) to a particular Pokéstop. These work for about 30 minutes. You pay for Lures with Pokécoins (because of course you do). One hundred Pokécoins is 99 cents. Each Lure is 100 Pokécoins, so you can draw folks to your business for a solid 30 minutes for less than a buck. You can buy Lures in bulk—eight for 680 Pokécoins (under $7) and on up to 14,500 for $99.99. As PCMag noted, “a business could conceivably set a Lure every half hour on the hour for the duration of its store hours.”

One of Townsquared‘s own engineers, Andrew Huang, reported catching a “rare, high-level Pokémon while buying egg custards” at the Golden Gate Bakery in Chinatown when they had a lure on. “Lures at businesses are definitely worth it in my mind,” he says.

If you’re not close to a Pokéstop, you can use incense as a lure, but only for yourself. Like Lures, incense also lasts for 30 minutes. Sometimes players are given incense when they level up in the game. It can also be bought at the rate of 1 for 80 Pokécoins, 8 for 500 coins, and so on. Since only the person who puts out incense can pick up the Pokémon who are attracted to it, business could perhaps find ways to offer incense as a reward.
courtesy of Standard 5 & Dime

Townsquared member Michelle Leopold, owner of Standard 5 & Dime Ace in San Francisco, may try some Pokémon local marketing. She put out some incense and caught several Pokémon. 

Reward players. If players find creatures in or near your business, have them show you their catch, encourage them to post a picture to social media, and give them some kind of reward, like a discount. (If they’ll share the pic with you, you can post it, as well.) There are endless variations on this type of Pokémon local marketing. You can cater to teams or reward players for finding especially rare Pokémon.

Give the people what they want. They want power (strips). Even if you’re not particularly close to a Pokéstop, you can provide players with charging stations. Pokémon Go devours battery life, and players will be grateful for the opportunity to recharge. And while they’re waiting, perhaps they’ll make a purchase.

Host a Poké-party. This is another good option if you’re not close to a Pokéstop or Gym. Invite players to gather at your business, exchange tips, and go out to hunt. Then, folks can regroup at your place, and talk about their finds, while nibbling on snacks or sipping a cocktail.

Follow the example of Pokémon Go players. Go outside and find a good spot near a Pokéstop or Gym and set up a pop-up shop.

Attract fans with on-trend products. If you make desserts, this might be an obvious one, but any business that works with color, like florists, can use this Pokémon local marketing tactic. Doubtless, mixologists around the world are already taste-testing Pokémon cocktails.

Gym-specific: If you happen to be on or near a Gym, you can host a Gym battle, and offer to keep score.

LureDeals: LureDeals have monetized Pokémon local marketing. It’s a paid service that essentially scales setting up a Lure (which they call a “Bounty”) and offering players who’ve signed up with them (“Hunters”) a deal. According to LureDeals, the “value we provide…is our growing network of Hunters that would go out of their way to support a local business, as well as other marketing services [for] each campaign that drive Hunters and Pokémon Go players to that location.” Prices vary according to location, but on average, setting a “bounty” costs about $5 for each 30-minute period.

image courtesy of Ian Stannard/Wikimedia Commons

Whatever tactics you try, make sure to publicize them every way you can think of to find the audience of Pokémon Go devotees. When you post your Poképics to social media, for example, remember to use hashtags that will help players find your posts. Keep in mind that there are serious Pokémon Go threads on Reddit and Quora, as well, where players share tips. Yelp also now has a Pokémon filter

Pokémon servers have been going down, in large part as a result of all the crazy traffic. If you’re going to set out a Lure or plan an event, it can’t hurt to check up on the servers’ status, which you can do at the aptly named site Is Pokémon GO down or not?.

Check the end of the article for examples of Pokémon local marketing tactics business have tried.

What’s Next for Local Businesses in Pokéland?

You’ve probably already heard that Niantic is planning to offer sponsored locations. There’s now a place you can sign up your business for consideration. But that’s just the beginning.

As Wired pointed out, right now “a Pokéstop at a church is functionally the same as PokéStop at a pizza place.” But, Niantic investor David Jones has said that he “can’t wait to see the potential with Pokémon Go, where going to a pharmacy will heal your Pokémon, or going to a fast-food chain will get you berries to feed them.” Brands—presumably ones with deep pockets—may be able to sponsor specific products. Jones insisted that it will be “done in a way that adds value to the game rather than detracts.” At the very least what this means is that now is the time for small businesses to get in on the action, while there are still loads of free and almost-free ways to capitalize on the game.

Pokémon marketing from across the country

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden advertised its many Pokéstops while promoting a parking discount.

A coffee shop in California offered to drop a Lure for every 15 drinks purchased.

A hotel restaurant offered 10 percent off for players who identify with a Team Mystic.

An indie clothing store in Utah doubling as a Pokéstop put out a chalkboard sign saying, “Come get your Pokéballs and previously rocked threads. Gotta catch ‘em all in style!” And then got a picture of their sign in Forbes and Money, and a mention in Entrepreneur.

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, photographed the Pokémon on their grounds, next to displays and works of art, then blogged about it.

A library which is both a Gym and a Pokéstop is planning to drop Lures before their own community events.

A Tennessee tour company created a special Pokémon Go tour after noticing that customers were asking to be taken to specific landmarks in order to catch Pokémon. The company says it booked seven tours in 24 hours.

pokemon local marketingThe Sacramento Zoo, in California, has posted screenshots of the game across its social media accounts.

An outlet mall in Phoenix posted a limited-time deal on its Facebook page.

A Gainesville, Florida, smoothie and juice bar took advantage of its proximity to two Pokéstops by posting a sign outside offering a $1 Bud Light or $2.99 smoothie to every trainer who placed a Lure Module at either Pokéstop. Players have been sharing the deal across social media and on Reddit.

Lyft is now offering Seattle riders heading to PokéStops a 20 percent discount.

And when Muncie Animal Shelter in Indiana posted an ad encouraging Pokémon players to take shelter dogs for a walk, within an hour, a line of adults and children wanting to volunteer had materialized.

If you’re in San Francisco on July 20, there’s a Pokémon Go Crawl starting at 6pm in the Embarcadero, ending in the Mission District. Some businesses along the way are offering specials and giveaways, including the SoMa StrEat Food Park, the 500 Club, and Myriad Marketplace. The hunt will end with Mission bar-hopping for those players 21 and over. Check out the Facebook page to see all the businesses offering deals. (Psst…Betabrands is a PokéStop.)

For more ideas, do a Google search for Pokémon Go guides for your city.

Betabrands.insta.2 Betabrands Instagram








Skitty image courtesy of Janine, Flickr

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