Another use for 'Pokemon Go': An advertising experiment

Pokemon Go helping businesses attract customers
Pokemon Go helping businesses attract customers

It's not just players who are enjoying "Pokemon Go." Businesses are finding a way to use the game as a marketing opportunity.

Ad agency Huge's, owned by IPG, has an office in Atlanta that's taking it one step further and turning it into an advertising experiment.

Since its public, in-house coffee shop opened in September 2015, it has been agency's "living breathing laboratory," Huge Atlanta's executive creative director Derek Fridman said.

It just so happens that the coffeehouse sits between two Pokestops, places where players can collect special in-game items, making it the perfect test site for game marketing.

"Games are the easiest way to generate engagement and activity and excitement," said Fridman. "We have nothing to do with Pokemon and the license and brand, yet we can leverage it to our benefit and bring in a cast of characters and celebrate with them."

"Pokemon Go" has been an unprecedented phenomenon, generating an estimated $14.04 million in revenue since its release on July 6 according to SuperData Research. It helps that Fridman enjoys playing the augmented reality game. He's currently at Level 8 and a member of Team Valor. And agency employees are taking turns holding down the Pokemon Gym at the end of the block .... in the name of research.

To get people to come to the coffeehouse, Huge placed "lure modules" around the stops on Monday that make Pokemon spawn more often in the area. Each module costs as much as $1 for 30 minutes.

"It created great impromptu conversations where people were coming in and just hanging out," Fridman said.

To further increase the likelihood that someone would buy coffee, Huge added about 25 phone charging stations on Tuesday after finding out the game drains battery. Fridman believes that it will cause people to stay longer — and buy a cup of coffee — while they're waiting to top up to 100 percent. Huge also offered a promotion where it gave a free steamed bun appetizer to anyone who shows they caught a Pokemon in their shop, with the hopes that those customers will decide to order more food and stay for a full meal.

Other businesses have also used "Pokemon Go" to their benefit, including New York pizzeria L'inizio Pizza Bar. It sales went up 75 percent over the weekend after the owner spent $10 on "lure modules."

While sales definitely went up on Monday for Huge Atlanta's coffee house, the company is waiting to complete the experiment for a week before releasing results.

This isn't the first time Huge's shop has served up more than coffee and snacks. Currently, it's running an experiment which allows employees on the upper floors to order coffee ahead via the Internet. The barista downstairs gets a vibration notification on their Apple Watch. The idea, Fridman explained, lets the employee know orders are coming while still allowing them the use of both hands and letting them keep eye contact and conversations with current customers.

These learnings are then analyzed and turned into practical advice for Huge' s clients, which have included EA Sports, Crate and Barrel, Google and Nike.

"As an agency, we've been trained to sit and talk about hypotheticals we come up with," Fridman said. "Now, I can sit across from a CEO or CMO and say we've actually tried these things."