Companies Are Embracing Pokémon GO

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You may have seen them over the weekend wandering the streets like zombies and glued to their mobile phones. No, they weren't extras in an episode of "The Walking Dead." They were players in Niantic Labs' new augmented reality game Pokémon GO. Since its launch last week, the GPS-enabled game has become an overnight sensation with at least 15 million downloads as of late last week, making Niantic $14 million in just a few days.

The free mobile gaming app uses a GPS and camera to see tiny creatures called Pokémon through their phones as if they exist in the real world. Players walk around towns to hunt these creatures and visit PokéStops which are located at popular spots like parks, churches, and museums.

The game has undoubtedly captured the media's attention since it seems to generate an endless stream of bizarre stories, from users finding dead bodies to Arlington National Cemetery closing to prevent players from wandering around the grounds. Putting the outlandish stories aside to understand what makes Pokémon GO a success reveals a platform ripe for incenting customers and employees.

The Pokémon GO phenomenon is the essence of how gamification should be used. Why? It's viral, it's socially aware, uses augmented reality, relies on mobile devices, and incorporates real life. It also appeals to a wide range of demographics, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.

Since the advent of mobile adoption, companies have been figuring out creative ways to incent customers to spend more and entice employees to deliver great service. Pokémon GO could offer the solution they've been looking for. Through location-based offers and smart engagement techniques, companies would be well positioned to create relevant offers and engage in meaningful conversations at critical moments throughout the buying cycles.

Until someone develops a similar platform for businesses, companies are embracing the Pokémon GO mania and trying to leverage the foot traffic. Avidia Bank, for example, is encouraging customers to take pictures of creatures in its offices and share screen shots of where they found Pokemon in the bank's branches. Several have shared pictures on Instagram.

The Strand, a bookstore in New York City, is promoting its Poké Stop nature on social media and included a list of book recommendations for Pokémon players on the store's online newsletter.

When Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. discovered that Pokémon and PokéStops were scattered across the museum's grounds, they got creative and photographed them next to various displays and pieces of art, then blogged about it on their site.

And the Oklahoma State University Cowboys launched personalized Pokémon GO graphics for recruits enticing players to tweet out photos.

These creative uses of Pokémon GO and more will hopefully serve as inspiration to many more companeis that struggle to find the lynchpin for a successful gamification strategy in their organizations.

How are you embracing Pokémon GO?

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