Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with our physical senses, (e.g., touch, smell, sight). This technology is far from new and has multiple uses in the commercial market but has struggled to find a foothold in the consumer market – that is until recently. On July 6th, 2016 Niantic released the Pokemon Go game app and within 20 days it had already been downloaded 75 million times while producing $10 million in revenue a day for Niantic. The popularity of this augmented reality game is not relegated to kids, as you may find adults as well as young patients playing Pokemon Go in your waiting room or clinic. It’s still to be determined if it will simply be a fad or a long-term success, but regardless, there are several things we as orthodontists can be doing to leverage this augmented reality app for the benefit of us and our patients.
The basic premise of this game, and other location based games, is that certain tasks can only be performed at specific physical locations. In Pokemon Go the goal is to capture as many Pokemon, (small exotic looking creatures with magical properties), as possible so that they can be trained up to compete against other players’ Pokemon. A casual walk down the street with your Pokemon Go app will reveal Pokemon randomly hopping across your path. In addition as you walk around you’ll discover the location of PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms. Pokemon Gyms host the battles between players and their Pokemon but PokeStops serve as one-stop-shops to purchase items to improve your gameplay
PokeStops present a unique opportunity to orthodontists and other savvy marketers. One of the items available for purchase at a PokeStop is a lure. Lures can be purchased and activated at a PokeStop to attract Pokemon. The lure lasts for 30 minutes and attracts Pokemon to gather at that particular PokeStop for easy capture. For example, I once stumbled upon a crowd of 60 people sitting in an amphitheater by the Willamette River in downtown Portland. I assumed they were awaiting the start of a performance and asked a nearby vendor what show it was. He explained there was no scheduled show and there were simply two PokeStops located side-by-side which both had active lures. The crowd had congregated to take advantage of the lures to easily capture Pokemon.
PokeStops have been preassigned by Niantic at locations of local significance. These can be popular stores, parks, art installations, schools, museums, etc. In a few cases I have heard of orthodontists who have been lucky enough to have their offices marked as a PokeStop. Unfortunately as of right now Niantic is not accepting requests to have specific locations deemed PokeStops so there is no way to influence their location.
The marketing opportunity exists for orthodontists who are willing to leverage nearby PokeStops to attract players. Since most orthodontists won’t be lucky enough to have their offices marked as PokeStops you’ll need to download the app or ask a patient where the nearest PokeStop is to your office. Then, on a Saturday, for example, you could set up a marketing table at the PokeStop and activate a lure to attract players. Of course if the PokeStop is on private land you’ll need permission from the landowner or if it’s on public land you may need a permit from the city or county first. If you’re willing to drop multiple lures throughout a specific time period it could be worth the effort. To support your efforts I suggest you post flyers around your office and post on social media the exact times and location you will be activating lures at that specific PokeStop. Word will spread among local players and you may be surprised by the response.
If you are unable to coordinate a marketing presence at a nearby PokeStop there are other ways you can leverage Pokemon Go. Simply placing signs in your windows notifying patients and non-patient passerbys that Pokemon have been spotted in your lobby may encourage more people to open your door. Asking patients if they’re playing Pokemon Go and engaging them in conversation about it may also help you continue to build rapport with them. Keeping up to date with the latest advances in virtual entertainment is not only good for your patients but may also be good for you.