Following its launch on July 6th, 2016, Pokémon Go quickly became a global sensation, breaking app download records within its first week. By the turn of the year, its creators, San Francisco-based software developer Niantic labs, had generated $1 billion in revenue. As a result, summer 2016 was seen by many as the breakthrough moment for augmented reality.
One of the key reasons Pokémon Go gained its initial success was its ability to monetise nostalgia. By tapping into the interests of the elusive yet lucrative millennial audience, the app was able to quickly capture their imagination (59% of Pokémon Go users are 18-24, and 33% are 25-34). As a result, big brands were soon clamouring to make a profit by sponsoring in-game locations such as Pokéstops and gyms, with the advertisers charged on a cost-per-visit basis.
Plenty of US retailers seized the opportunity to increase their stores’ footfall as well, even using signs to notify users of the presence of a rare Pokémon onsite. However, this famously fickle millennial audience was also Pokémon Go’s greatest downfall. This demographic tends to reject advertising, so as soon as brands such as McDonald’s registered their restaurants as Pokestops, interest in the game began to wane.
So, what can other brands learn from the fortunes and misfortunes of Pokémon Go? Firstly, when targeting the millennial audience, brands need to be cautious, as this market is quick to fall out of favour with brands that try too hard. Secondly, to become truly mainstream, the use of AR technology must transcend the millennial audience and the mobile gaming industry and focus instead on the everyday needs of consumers.
Several companies are already making headway in this area. Blippar’s new technology Augmented Reality Digital Placement (ARDP), for example, can be used to create display advertising that superimposes products over a user’s surroundings in real time. Bringing augmented reality to the masses, ARDP works in most camera-accessible web and mobile environments to deliver a highly immersive online advertising experience.
This technology allows users to click on an online advertisement and interact with an AR game or photo without having to leave the webpage. Examples of its use include smartphone-enabled catalogues and Black Friday shoppable store windows. Brands such as House of Holland have already subscribed to this futuristic concept of shopping by teaming up with Visa to allow shoppers to scan an item with their smartphone and make an on-screen purchase.
In its recent annual developer conference, Google announced a similar innovation that could take this technology one step further. Google Lens already brings the digital and physical worlds together by allowing a smartphone camera to understand what it is looking at. Google now plans to integrate this technology with Google Search to effectively merge the online and offline customer experience into one seamless journey for consumers. In the future, for example, a consumer could simply point a smartphone at a restaurant, it would recognise its name, display its online reviews and then book it at the click of a button.
Speaking at the height of Pokémon Go’s popularity, Mike Quigley, CMO of Niantic Labs, described the Pokémon Go app as ‘AR light’, “because we know we have just scratched the surface of what’s possible”. Indeed, as Blippar and Google are already proving, there is huge potential for AR beyond gaming.
Across all sectors, the app-agnostic nature of this technology allows agencies and brands to take advantage of its ability to create highly engaging consumer experiences at scale. Backed by contextual consumer targeting and real-time data collected from the physical world, brands will soon be able to understand more about their customers’ behaviour and interests. Furthermore, and more importantly, Pokémon Go has demonstrated that there is a strong consumer market with an appetite for AR.