These days it’s hard to differentiate between a scene from The Walking Dead and real life.

Just driving down the street of your town you might come across people tripping over sidewalks, bumping into strangers, and venturing into oncoming traffic without a clue of what’s going on in the world outside their phone screen.

The source of this real-life zombie apocalypse is, of course, Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game that has taken over the world (which in turn means it’s taken over the world of marketers as well).

What started out as a 2013 April Fool’s Day prank has ended up capturing the attention of nearly 8 million U.S. users (and counting).
With that much enthusiasm surrounding the app, there’s got to be a way for your restaurant to capitalize, right?

Of course, and we’ll show you how.

First, a brief look into the craze

If you want to make the most of a moment, you have to understand the nuances behind the fad.

As far as restaurants should be concerned:

Pokémon Go is a game that includes places called PokéStops (where users stock up on accessories and tools) and Gyms (where users train their captured Pokémon and fight them against other players).

The locations have already been chosen by the makers of the game.

What we’ve seen thus far is that the game has proven to move massive groups of people to these spots on their map, thanks in large part to the cleverly created Lure Module.

Lures – within the game – attract Pokémons to a designated area and let them spawn at a faster rate than normal for 30 minutes. This limited-time advantage causes hordes of real-life people (aka, prospective customers) to come running to the PokéStop as fast as they can.

Already we’ve seen local stores purchase Lure Modules to bring in scores of people.

How Pokémon fits in with the modern consumer

The beauty of Pokémon Go is it lets audiences interact with your brand naturally, and, almost, unknowingly.

That’s important in today’s consumer-centric market were the average user is turned off by traditional marketing gimmicks. They’re not averse to interacting with brands. They just want it to be on their terms.

A few tips to help you organically reach out to users of the Pokémon Go craze include:

  • Be ready for your influx of visitors by launching a special promotion or discount (like a happy hour 2-for-1 deal)
  • Create a Pokémon avatar for your brand, then go and purchase some Lure Modules. Any PokéStop that’s been activated with one of these modules will reflect your avatar’s name for 30 minutes
  • Share a photo or two on Twitter or Instagram showing off the pocket monsters that appear in your location. For example, you can post something like: “Just saw a Mew while cleaning some dishes. Watch out!”
  • Niantic, the company that developed the game with Nintendo, has already announced it intends to allow marketers to sponsor locations. Keep an eye out for that!

The potential issues facing Pokémon Go marketing

What if every business purchased a PokéStop, and all of them set off lures outside their shops? In essence, the value of these PokéStops would be negated. That’s why there has to be only a handful of lures within a given area at any one time.

This is different than traditional PPC strategies. Let’s say, for example, Restaurant A wants to bring in customers at the same specific time and day as Restaurant B across the street. The two restaurants would then compete against one another to serve their ads to a designated area.

With lures, however, the competition isn’t confined to just one category: restaurants. It’s a competition among every business within the same vicinity looking to purchase a lure at a given time.

This will almost certainly create an entirely new type of bidding war. Currently, purchasing a PokéStop isn’t very expensive. But when competition ramps up, and dozens of businesses begin to compete with one another for their vicinity’s only lure, you can be certain the increase in demand will directly impact the cost of a lure.

Looking beyond Pokémon Go

As exciting as it is to jump on a specific craze, I tend to look toward the bigger picture. In this case, while Pokémon Go offers great marketing opportunities for restaurant owners, I’m looking at how businesses can use augmented technology, in general, to their advantage.

Just think about the potential of infusing a little virtual life into the real world. For example, let’s say you’re trying to steal away customers from your biggest competitor down the street.

With augmented reality, you could place a 20-foot cheeseburger outside the door of your competitor, in augmented reality, with a 20% coupon for your own restaurant.

When a potential customer with an augmented app walks up to your competitor’s restaurant, they’ll get buzzed by their phone, will check out their app, and realize they’d be better off eating at your place instead.

Yelp’s already been using this technology with Monocle, but expect it to become far more widespread thanks to Pokémon Go’s success.

The exciting thing is that Pokémon Go just launched, and already the game makers – and marketers – are trying to capitalize on the craze. You can be certain that this free-to-download app will find ways to turn a hefty revenue, which could spell tremendous opportunities for your restaurant and the local market.