Marketing Bootcamp

5 Ways Your Higher-Ed Brand Can Use 'Pokémon Go' to Increase Foot Traffic

All across America, otherwise rational people are scurrying about, noses glued to their smartphone screens, chasing imaginary characters. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know I’m talking about Pokémon Go, a movement that’s shaking up our very notions of what’s possible with gaming.

Related: 3 Ways to Level Up Your Marketing With Pokemon Go

Pokémon Go taps into the GPS and clock on your smartphone to determine where you are and when you've arrived at a destination. It then produces Pokémon characters on your smartphone screen, based on your location. You “capture” the Pokémon character and move on to the next one, making use of "training gyms" in public buildings along the way, where you can "train" the Pokémon character you’ve collected.

The game has already had ripple effects nationally. Teens and young adults in particular are up and moving, walking through neighborhoods to find “Poké Stops” or places where characters may be hidden. More importantly, they’re visiting churches, museums and other public landmarks they've never been to . . . and getting exercise in the bargain.

If you're aligned with a higher-education institution brand, you're in a great position to capitalize on this craze. You’ve got the right demographic out there, and they're all armed with smartphones. Now, it’s time to set up some strategic activities on campus and increase foot traffic to selected locations.

Know your game: Install it and play it.

Before sharing the five ideas below, my first and most important recommendation is to install and play the game. This is especially important if you’re in the demographic that's never played the original version of Pokémon.

Playing the actual game gives you several advantages. First, you’ll know how it works, which will help you use these ideas more effectively, as well as generate your own ideas. Next, you’ll accrue game points. When you reach a certain level in the game, you can set Poké Lures and attract Pokémon to your location. You can eventually use this as part of your strategy (more on that below).

You may feel silly at first walking around your institution's campus with your nose glued to your smartphone screen. But, the more you play, the more fun you’ll have, and the better you’ll understand students’ fascination with the game and all the nuances of augmented reality that make it the next big thing for gamers everywhere.

Related: Pokemon Go: You Don't Have to be a Gamer to Get into the Game

5 ideas to lure Pokémon Go players out of their dorms and onto campus

To increase foot traffic on campus, you can leverage the features inside the Pokémon game to achieve that goal. There are also ways to make various campus centers more attractive for gamers.

1. Utilize Poké Stops on campus. 

Poké Stops are locations in the real world where the game sets Poké Balls -- virtual devices used to “capture” your Pokémon -- and eggs, which hatch into the characters. If you have one on campus, set up information next to it. Maximize the foot traffic heading your way, with information about upcoming events, school news and more.

2. Set lures. 

You can pay for Poké Lures with actual money in the Pokémon store. These lures can be "set" or placed anywhere on campus to maximize foot traffic. Set them near your campus' academic buildings, theater and other notable locations to get kids moving around campus. Poké Lures are also public, meaning that they appear not just on phones on campus but in public as well, which can increase foot traffic from strangers seeking their next capture. It’s a great way to get more folks walking across campus.

3. Offer free charging stations. 

One thing to note about the game is that it drains battery life like crazy. Try setting up free charging stations in the library, at the media center and in other buildings across the campus to attract foot traffic. If you’ve got upcoming events on campus you’d like to promote, consider displaying them near the charging stations, since your students will be sitting there for a while. Offering water, food and drinks nearby is another great way to get students out of their dorm rooms and socializing.

4. Offer free WiFi. 

Open up WiFi access to the public. This encourages more foot traffic across your campus, as gamers chase the elusive characters and visit the various Poké Stops and lures set up.

5. Promote meetups. 

Create meetups for students on campus so they can go out in groups to enjoy the game. Not only will doing that increase foot traffic on campus, it’ll also help students get to know one another.

Pokémon Go is this year’s social craze, demonstrating a real demand for more augmented reality games. It’s having positive unintended consequences -- like people going out and getting plenty of fresh air and exercise as they seek elusive Pokémon. Unfortunately, it’s having negative effects, too, like people getting hurt by tripping and falling off of curbs as they stare at their phones.

Related: The 5 Most Ridiculous Pokémon Go Stories of the Week

Higher ed brands, however, can piggyback on the popularity of the game and use it to encourage visitors to their campuses, promote events and help students get to know one another. Like most things in life, it’s how you use what’s at hand that makes it good or bad. Pokémon Go is the wave of the future, and a great way to get more people moving through your campus.