Pokémon GO: 6 Easy Digital Marketing Ideas

One quick note: Not all organizations are happy about Pokémon Go. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery have both issued appeals for players to avoid hunting Pokemon on their sites, according to CNN. Also, there have been some safety concerns raised about players not being alert to their surroundings. Both players and organizations should be both appropriate and safe when it comes to capturing those cute, little critters. 

CNN says “Pokémon GO is an augmented reality game/exercise app that is taking over the world.” Let's cover a few basics before we go into how you might take advantage of Pokémon GO.

What is it? Pokémon GO is a Nintendo app, which is free to download and play, that uses GPS to make a cartoony map of your neighborhood and anywhere else you go. Pokémon, pocket monsters or cute animal creatures, are interspersed throughout the virtual reality mapped over real life. When you come within range of a Pokémon, it will show up on your phone. You can collect Pokémon or fight them against other Pokémon at a Pokegym. The game gets more complicated, but these are the basics.

Why should it matter to you? Pokémon GO is already netting more downloads than the dating app Tinder, and is on pace to outperform Twitter in daily active users.

How can you use it for your cause-driven organization? “Most of nonprofits are using it as a form of clever newsjacking — discovering that the nonprofit’s office or program location is a Pokémon stop and have snapped a photo for social media posting,” writes Beth Kanter on her blog. “Others are using it to lure visitors to their location.  Museums, gardens, and parks have jumped on it.”

1)   Attract Pokémon GO players to visit your location

According to an article by Kristina Leroux, the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve & Nature Center posted an image of Facebook of a Pokémon at their nature center along with the message, “Look what was spotted near the bird feeders this morning! I hear we should expect to find all kinds of interesting Pokemon roaming the Preserve now. Anyone else had sightings?”

“Rachel Braver, the Communications Coordinator at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, said a couple of volunteers she spoke with in person were excited to see the ‘PokeGym’ nearby. She used the close proximity of the gym to ask for more volunteers,” writes Leroux. Rachel also offered a tour to any Pokémon GO players who were interested and anyone who shared a Pokémon Go screen shots taken at the Food Bank received a “Hunger Fighter” wristband.

“Rachel says they are also considering buying Lure Modules, which allow you to place a Pokémon at a location you choose for 30 minutes,” writes Leroux.

2)   If you are an organization that uses walks or runs to raise money, Pokémon GO players walk a lot

Charity Miles, an app that enables you to earn money for charity when you walk, run or bike, has started a Pokémon Go challenge.

3)   Use a Pokémon in a public service announcement

The NYPD used a Pokémon image to encouraging folks not to play on the phones while driving. (The catch here is that Pokémon GO is causing the problem that the NYPD is trying to combat with Pokémon GO.)

4)   Take over a Pokegym for a cause

The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, is a Pokegym. An LGBTQ activist with the Pokémon nickname "LoveIsLove" took over the Pokegym at the church.

5)   Treat your Pokémon as a site for outreach

If Pokémon in or near your office are attracting foot traffic, then talk to the people who come by. If people are stopping on the steps of your building, put up a sign inviting them in for a tour or a refreshment. 

“If there are particularly rare Pokémon or items available at your charity’s location, why not leave a (secure) donation box in the area with a special sign asking players to make a donation in return for getting the items and Pokémon?” suggests the author of the Monfort blog.

6) Plan a Pokémon GO crawl and use the game itself to engage new people

“I’m currently developing a plan to use Pokémon Go as the focus of a community outreach event. I work for a youth-serving agency. Our main campus has four Pokestops on our property, as well as several across the street,” writes Brian Young.

“There’s also a large city park nearby and a number of businesses that could benefit from a Pokemon Go Crawl through our business district. Finding activities that simultaneously engage youth and adults can be difficult. Pokemon Go has captured the hearts of people of all ages. I think this app will be a great way to get people engaged.”