Tuesday, July 19, 2016

PokemonGo...What Can Downtowns Learn?

I can honestly say that in the long and winding list of unexpected things that I have dealt with in my job, never in my wildest dreams did Pokemon ever enter into the equation. But I always say never say never when it comes to downtowns, so here we are.  We heard about it at our office and decided to download the app and go exploring.  I have to admit, it was kind of fun, very engaging and borderline addicting.  And while it was super cool to discover PokeStops and capture Pokemon, what struck me was how it was able to draw a mostly teen crowd to downtown.  Yes, many have described them as "zombies staring mindlessly at their phones", but I think that's missing the point.  How many times have we all agonized over ways to draw teens downtown with marginal success?  Along comes PokemonGo and here they all are which, in my mind, begs two questions:  Why are they here and, more importantly, how do we engage them?

While I am a self-proclaimed geek, I am not a tech geek, so the science of how it all works is still a mystery to me, but that's for people much smarter than me to figure out.  But what I can tell you is that the most interesting part of the app for downtowners are the selections of the PokeStops, many of which are historic markers.  Interesting, huh?  And certainly much more engaging than the old QR codes that have gone the way of 8-track tapes and pet rocks.   So what did we do? 

First, let's go back to why they are here - it's a game and they want to play it, earn points, choose teams, battle and most importantly, capture Pokemon.  So how do we help them achieve that goal?  We did what any self-respecting downtown people would do, we created a PokemonGo event.  It was pretty simple, down and dirty really.  We already had our Sidewalk Sales going on, so we piggybacked on that. We figured out that you could purchase coins to set "lures" on the PokeStops downtown that would draw additional Pokemon to the sites for people to capture.  We advertised the event exclusively through our social media channels and let people know that we would be setting lures.  So we could really track how many people the event attracted, we added a call-to-action component. People had to stop by our Information Booth and show us that they had captured at least 20 Pokemon.  As a reward, they could pick a piece of Pokemon swag out of our treasure chest and enter to win a Pokemon Prize Pack.

How did we do?  At the end of the night, we had over 300 people stop by the booth to show us their Pokemon spoils and enter the drawing, including a precocious little teenybopper who assured me that I was going to be "so jelly" when he showed me how many Pokemon he captured.  Priceless.  What was most interesting was that the crowd was not just teens, but people of all ages that were really enjoying getting out and exploring around our downtown.  And they truly appreciated us recognizing and rewarding their efforts.  PR mission accomplished. 

Between the Pokemon swag, prize pack and lures, we probably spent about $200, but the public relations value far outweighed that.  We engaged the teens (and everyone else), made them feel welcome and invited them to come back.  Pretty good return on investment if you ask me!

Oh, and my personal favorite part of the app? The ability to take photos of the Pokemon you encounter within their surroundings. I might have 2 or 3 (or 45) photos of assorted Pokemon characters all over Downtown Rochester. 

See you downtown!

The Downtown Geek

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