Gotta catch ‘em all: Can pharma marketers capitalize on the Pokémon Go craze?

Pokemon Go

Media and marketing agencies are scrambling to figure out how to help clients tap into the Pokémon Go craze--including those agencies with pharma clients.

The augmented reality game has attracted an estimated 15 million users who traverse the physical world with the smartphone app searching for Nintendo-created Pokémon creatures and hangouts, The Wall Street Journal reports. So it’s no surprise that various brands are looking to capitalize.

For pharma, though, there’s a hurdle, Justin Freid, VP of search engine marketing and emerging media at CMI/Compas and an avid player himself, told FiercePharmaMarketing. While small businesses are taking advantage of certain physical locations assigned as “gyms” or “Pokestops,” matching pharma up with location-based marketing could pose a challenge. The game creators at Niantic have said they’ll eventually allow brands to pay to sponsor locations, but those may not be especially helpful for pharma companies, which don’t have retail outlets.

However, Freid said, there could be opportunities at special events tied to raising money for disease research and awareness, such as walkathons for multiple sclerosis or races for breast cancer, to create pharma-sponsored Pokémon Go locations.

Still, one marketing exec told the WSJ, many marketers are still “wrapping their heads around the explosion in popularity”--and they may want to beware overdoing it on the advertising front. It would be a mistake to rush in and turn the Pokémon adventure into a “walk through virtual version of a billboard-filled Times Square,” he said.

But the opportunity for pharma marketers to use mobile and location-driven experience isn’t limited to Pokémon Go. Disease awareness campaigns and events are frequently used by pharma companies as ways to “drum up discussion and engage audiences pre-launch” and beyond, Carly Kuper, CMI/Compas’ VP of public relations, told FiercePharmaMarketing. And Boehringer Ingelheim and others have found success with gamification when pairing it with unbranded awareness campaigns.

“I could see them ... using the same type of idea and creating their own game that might appeal to a certain patient base. For example, an augmented reality game that teens with cancer could play while in the hospital, as a way to keep them entertained and upbeat,” she said.

- read WSJ story (sub. req.)

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