Economic Developer’s Guide to Pokemon Go

If you’ve ventured out from behind your desk over the past week, you’ve noticed how the new Pokemon Go app has taken over. We’ve all seen those posts on social media of different Pokemon with a backdrop of our real world. Not only are people in their 20s and 30s obsessing over this fandom game, but all ages and Pokemon fans and non-fans alike have all seemed to have found this new app enticing. In fact, this app has surpassed the daily activity on Snapchat and Twitter and has been downloaded twice as many times as Tinder. One of my good friends has jumped on the craze and is loving the app, posting updates on social media and killing her phone battery. Here’s a little something that she posted:

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“Finally got my Ponyta! Only took three miles of walking lol. Had to track it twice because the first time the server crashed right as it went in the pokeball”.
So as an economic developer, how can this popular app promote business in your community?

As I started writing this post, the first thing that I thought of was Small Business Saturday. As a former BRE manager, I coordinated my community’s Small Business Saturday program every November. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Small Business Saturday (possibly my favorite day of the year) is the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The program is sponsored by American Express and promotes supporting your local small businesses – the whole goal of the day is to get people out in your community. One tactic that I found very useful was using a “Passport” that American Express created, which had eight boxes on it. When someone would purchase from a participating small business they would get a sticker. Those who filled up the whole passport got entered into a drawing to win special prizes. It was a win – win: participating businesses got sales, consumers got Christmas gifts and possible prizes, and as an economic developer I was happy to engage my community.

So why did I drift so far off topic? My point is that Pokemon Go really isn’t so different from the methods that we already use to promote business in our community. We are getting people out on our streets, around our businessmen and women, and, ultimately, spending money at our local businesses. It supports a healthy business climate and will help you rack in that sales tax.

Soon, businesses will be able to sponsor locations, meaning that they can attract people right through their doors in search of a PokeStop or Gym. Until then, what can you do to use this fun new game as a business tool? If a business is near a Gym or PokeStop, have the business offer a special deal for people with the app, or a certain team within the game – they could even make it a game to keep track of how many people from each team visit and offer the winning team a special. Businesses can create signage for their windows or giveaways that are custom for the business and Pokemon. Encourage your small businesses to purchase a Lure – they are only $0.99 and increase Pokemon generation in that area for 30 minutes, meaning that people will flock to that area to wait to claim their prizes. Your businesspeople can also go to these Pokemon hotspots – take flyers, coupons, samples, or even some of their own products. Lastly, have your businesses use social media – take screenshots, remind people to visit on the way to a hotspot for the game, and remember to use popular hashtags to get more exposure: #pokemongo #pokemon.

As an economic developer, you can even start a Pokemon Go event within your community. Get a food truck or other food vendor and some live music to come out to your Main Street, park, or some other popular or iconic part of your community. Advertise the event to be catered to Pokemon Go gamers – create a Facebook event, post about it, use hashtags on social media, send the event info to HOAs and different groups (Rotary, Lions Club, Ambucs). Where there are lots of people, there are lots of pokemon, battles, and retail sales.

At the end of the day, all I’m trying to say is: Economic Developers, don’t fight the Pokemon Go craze, embrace it. This is just the beginning of getting people off their couch, out of their houses, and involved more in your community.

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Banner Photo Credit: Pobiedzinski

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