Wanna Catch Em All? Go Augmented

DMI Magnus JernThe Pokémon Go phenomenon has shown the true power of augmented reality, argues Magnus Jern, president of DMI International.

?There’s no escaping Pokémon Go. Whether it’s youngsters being introduced to the tiny cartoon creatures, young adults being re-introduced to characters from their childhood or the rest of us jumping on the bandwagon, Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm! So why has it been so successful and should we have seen this coming?

Pokémon is a huge brand in itself with a large cult following but the success of Pokémon Go is largely to do with the increased engagement levels that have been enabled by Augmented Reality (AR) technologies (AR). It’s unlikely that the game would be so popular if the characters were within an imaginary world.

AR technology, although incumbent, is nothing new. In fact, we worked with brands such as US National Guard, McDonalds, Unilever and Audi to launch mobile apps with elements of AR as early as 2009. The problem that most brands faced was that AR apps were received well by the media and consumers, for their innovative nature, but they often struggled to retain user engagement for any length of time.

The reason early adopters of AR technologies failed early on was because the technology, and users, were not ready at the time. More importantly the early concepts didn’t solve a problem or deliver a markedly improved experience. Pokémon Go is a great example of taking a mature technology and delivering a better gaming experience.

Ultimately the timing of the game has had a major impact on its success. The mobile gaming sector over the past year has been stagnant, with few major hits. The last major titles that successfully retained user interest were Clash of Clans, Candy Crush and Game of War and these have been on the top charts for quite a while now. Gamers were ready for a new cult game and what’s better than a new gaming experience using new technologies?

More than just a game?
Thanks to social apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, we are seeing games become increasingly more social and with selfies and videos being snapped anytime, anywhere its not considered strange to walk around with your camera pointing in all kinds of directions. Unlike other mobile games, such as Candy Crush, Pokémon Go encourages communities to come together and share experiences – signalling the next generation of mobile gaming.

This works to a major advantage for brands thinking about investing in a presence within the game, as it opens a whole new market and marketing mechanism. When we consider the sheer quantity of handsets together in one place it eliminates the need for segmentation.

Aside from nurturing communities we can see a wider social impact stemming from the game – it’s encouraging people to become more active. The key element of the game is walking and exploring new areas in order to gather as many items and catch as many Pokémon as possible. Features such as the incubation period which requires users to walk a certain distance before their Pokémon egg can hatch will encourage children (and adults) to get active and potentially discover places they have never visited before. So how can brands get in on the action?

Pokémon Go has major potential for brands to reach a vast audience. With the game recording around 26m users on 13 July and only set to increase, this is an opportunity too big for brands to ignore.

We can expect to see brands getting involved with Pokémon Go in the same way that they have in virtual worlds such as Second Life, Habbo and Minecraft. There is potential for brands to buy advertising space within the app primarily through sponsoring a ‘Poké Stop’ at the virtual location of their premises. We will likely see tiered packages available for brands whereby they can pay a premium price to have a rare Pokémon within the vicinity of their premises or even more to become a destination within the game such as a training gym.

Currently, buildings within the app are represented as flat 2D images but as the app matures and develops there is potential for these buildings to be visualised in 3D. This opens up even more opportunities for brands as they could potentially pay for branded buildings or even billboards within the game. It will definitely make sense for retailers, restaurants and consumer brands to engage in this world. The question is who will be first?

What’s next?
The success of Pokémon Go will make marketers sit up and take note of the opportunities that arise when AR becomes part of the marketing mix especially when it delivers a better customer experience. Pokémon Go has proven the theory that technology adoption almost always takes longer than we expect but when it happens it catches on faster than we could ever imagine.

We will most likely see a jump in interest around AR technologies as brands get involved and jump on the bandwagon. What we hope however is that companies will focus on the bigger picture – delivering a better experience through leveraging AR and other mobile technologies. But it is important to remember that you don’t have to be the first with mobile technology to win, you just need to do it better and hopefully brands recognise this before jumping to develop a copycat app.

Magnus Jern is president of DMI International