Vending & Pop Culture: Combining Pokémon Go With Your Business

Aug. 18, 2016

Have you happened to notice throngs of teenagers standing or walking together with their phones out at a park recently? Or have you – in the last few weeks – witnessed adults running down the sidewalk with their phones stretched out in front of them? Chances are they are playing the augmented reality game Pokémon Go.

Why should you care? Well first, more than 100 million people worldwide have reportedly downloaded the mobile app since its launch in July and I can guess that plenty of those users are your customers. Secondly, there are a number of ways you can use this phenomenon to draw attention to your business that hopefully turns into sales.

What is it?

Pokémon Go, released in July, is a location-based, free-to-play game that users can download on their iOS or Android phone. The mobile app uses the phone’s GPS capability so users can locate, capture, train and battle virtual Pokémon. The creatures appear on your screen, as though they were in the same real-world location (see image 1).

The app has been criticized for being a nuisance in some public places, but others praise the app for getting people off their couches and out into the world.

In order for the game to work, users have to walk around (or bike) to catch Pokémon. Although many Pokémon are caught outside, you can also catch them inside of your home….and in businesses, too.

Here are a few ways you can use Pokémon Go to draw attention to your vending business:

1. Use PokeStops to your advantage

A PokeStop is a building or outdoor location where users can refuel and get more Poke Balls (the things they use to catch Pokémon). The player has to be pretty close to the PokeStop for it to work so that has been good news for local business owners. So, vending operators, are your vending machines near a PokeStop? Download the app to find out. Many PokeStops are located in parks, by schools, baseball fields, etc., so chances are that at least a few of your machines are near some. Why not place a sign on your machines welcoming the Pokémon Go players? It’s free marketing, and if they read the sign on the machine, they could stop and purchase a drink or snack as well.

If you want to get even more involved, you can purchase Lure Modules, which attract wild Pokémon to the PokeStop. Your route driver could use the Lure Module while he or she is stocking the machine and that has the possibility of drawing even more players towards the area.

Note: PokeStops are predetermined by the game developers, so small businesses can’t apply to be a PokeStop yet, but there have been reports that might change.

2. Hold contests on social media

Social media is an absolutely great way to market your business and incorporate pop culture. What you can do is hold a contest for your customers on social media. Tell them to look for Pokémon in their office breakroom. If they find one, encourage them to take a screenshot and upload the image to your company’s social media page (Twitter or Facebook) with a unique hashtag that you create. Then your company can randomly select a winner to receive $10 onto their micro market account or a free vended item next time they visit the breakroom.

Note: If there are no Pokémon in the breakroom, try expanding the contest to include the entire office location, but the catch will be that the user has to include an item from the vending machine/micro market into the picture with the Pokémon.

3. Involve your employees

I have heard of businesses hosting a “Pokémon Go hunt” that begins and ends at the business. All you would have to do is promote a start date and time, wait for people to show up, then head out in search of Pokémon. When the hour is up, you can end at the business and have an after party of sorts. This could be a fun way to have an employee engagement evening, awarding the employee who reaches the highest level, with an award or prize. Make it fun and light.

Note: You could also try partnering with a location – if your best location has a Pokémon Go Hunt, encourage the ending point to be the breakroom where people can compare results. This would drive them back to the machine or micro market, which could result in more sales for you.

There’s really no end to how creative you can be when you combine vending and pop culture. If you’re already incorporating these or other techniques into your marketing plan, we’d love to hear!