Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality game that lays a sort of semi-transparent Poké-world over your actual, geographical location, which you can explore by physically walking around while staring zombie-like at your screen.
(You can read their entire article here.)
Pokémon has been around for years, and I credit the media single-handedly for bringing so much attention to it, and creating madness. However, the media is slightly misleading in how it talks about the game. They credit the game for “getting people up and out of the house” into areas that they normally wouldn’t go to. As soon as they said that, tourism marketers, bloggers and travel industry experts immediately told destination marketing organizations that they should capitalize on its popularity. And while it may be true that the games does get people up and out of the house into areas that they normally wouldn’t go to, they aren’t going to these areas to visit a new attraction and take in the surrounding experiences, they are going to catch a Pikachu or some other characters within the game.
I am an avid sports fan, and season-ticket holder for the University of Louisville football team. I also attend numerous sporting events throughout the year in various cities too. And when I am walking into the sports arena or stadium, the one thing I cannot stand is all the vendors who want to give me FREE crap as I walk by. The only reason I am walking past those vendors is because they are on my way to the arena to watch the game. I am not stopping to talk and engage in hopes that I can get an ink pen or a squeeze-ball. I don’t want to get a new credit card, and I don’t want to give them my information. Just let me get to my seat so I can watch the game – that is what I am here for.
I believe this is the same scenario of Pokémon Go players. They are playing a game, period. And it is a game that is not related to tourism. The odds are pretty slim that if someone is to catch a character outside of your Visitors Center that they will walk in and spend money. If they are playing in the park near a hotel and they catch a character, do you think they are going to look up and say, “Well since I’m here let me go ahead and book a hotel room”? Every product or service has motivating factors on the path to purchase for the consumer, and it would be naive for destination marketers to rely on augmented reality characters as a force for tourism growth.
As destination marketers we need to quit trying to tack our destinations onto something that is irrelevant to our destination marketing efforts. Can it be something to talk about with visitors and locals in your destination? Yes, it can. But it is not a marketing tactic that will bring visitors to your destinations, attractions, visitors centers or hotels to spend money. To help make my point, here are three reasons why I will not be jumping on the Pokémon bandwagon:
#1 | We should not market fads. As marketers, it is important for us to stay on top trends, but we also need to do a better job of analyzing how these trends fit into the overall landscape of our marketing strategies. I often see marketers and bloggers encouraging people to be first to market with products, and they haven’t even done their due diligence yet. If you had no intention of using a marketing tactic on a Monday, you should not shift your plans for a new and unproven tactic that comes out on a Tuesday. Stay the course, be consistent and hold true to your marketing strategy.
#2 | Gamification in tourism is not sustainable. There are games, and then there is tourism. And every year, a new game is introduced that travel and tourism industry “experts” say will change or enhance your tourism marketing efforts. Marketers need to understand what the end goal of the game is, and how it ties into other marketing efforts. We’ve seen countless other gaming apps that were tourism specific fall by the wayside (i.e. Gowalla, Foursquare and Path), so why do we think a game that is not even related to tourism would make sense for our destination marketing efforts?
#3 | Augmented reality still has a huge education gap. Augmented reality has been the rage of conversation for several years, but has yet to catch on to the mainstream public. Pokémon Go could be a catalyst for how the general public sees and accepts augmented reality. But right now, augmented reality is still a new concept that most consumers do not fully understand. And until there is more mainstream education in place, augmented reality applications will remain on the back burner.