Reaching new audiences with Pokémon Go

Whether good or bad, Pokémon are back in the spotlight. I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go by now (I’d make a joke about living in a cave, but it’s rather cliché), but if you haven’t then check this out for a recap. The real-world nature of Pokémon Go is making a big difference in how the game is played. To begin with the game is helping adults and kids get out of the house and be more active, with all of the positive effects that exercise gives, but further to that organisations are using it to help draw in and connect with a new audience. Even in the few short weeks since the app was released organisations around the world have been using Pokémon Go as a tool to draw in new audiences and engage with their visitors. I believe the philosophy many are going with is ‘they’ll come for the Pokémon, but they’ll stay for the museum’. But how are they actually going about it? Well here are a few things you can think about.

Use some discretion before jumping in

Before jumping on the Pokémon Go bandwagon stop and have a think about whether or not you actually should. Some organisations (famously the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery, but also others) have already made the decision to discourage their visitors from hunting for Pokémon on their grounds. While a few other organisations seem to have made rash decisions on the matter (seemingly out of general bias against online games), you have to respect the decision of those that have decided that games like this don’t have a place in their organisations.

Playing games such as ‘Pokémon Go’ on these hallowed grounds would not be deemed appropriate Arlington National Cemetery

Be sure to think about your organisation, the materials you deal with, and the audience you cater to before deciding that Pokémon Go is for you.

Play the game yourself

I’m not saying you need to ‘catch them all’, but if you want to effectively and authentically connect with visitors over Pokémon Go then you should get to know how it actually works. While you’re learning the game is a great chance to snap some photos of Pokémon around your business, and your Poké engagement has begun!


Hey @migration_museum, you have a bit of a Nidoran problem in your courtyard ????

A photo posted by David Walker (@digitalbarn) on

Promote your proximity to Pokéstops

Pokéstops are markers on the map that allow players to refresh their supplies, making them natural drawcards. Organisations all over the world have already been doing this one, but I’d rather turn to a local example. The Adelaide Zoo have a whopping 17 Pokéstops and a gym within their walls, and have been doing a great job at promoting this. Not only have they held Pokémon Go events, but they’ve even produced a map that shows where all of the Pokéstops are throughout the zoo. The National Motor Museum were also proud to have been included as a gym.

Draw in visitors using lures

This is where your Poké engagement starts getting serious. Pokéstops can be equipped with lures, an in-game device that attracts more Pokémon to the area for a certain time. Using lures is one creative way that organisations have been attracting players to their location. But how do they do this? All players start out with a few lures, which are generally spent pretty early in the game, but after purchasing coins in the in-app store players are able to buy additional lures. Organisations have been doing this and publicising the fact that their lures will be running at certain times. QAGOMA did this to great success a few weeks ago, announcing that they would have continuous lures running for a day.

Catch ‘em all this Saturday at Pokémon Go-MA! Check out all our PokeStops, catch some rare Pokémon among the art and battle it out at our very own Gym down by the river (next to GOMA Cafe Bistro). Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art

As a general guide, 2500 Pokécoins is around thirty dollars, and with that many coins you could purchase roughly 24 lures. Each lure lasts for half an hour, so for the outlay of thirty dollars you could equip a Pokéstop with a lure for 12 continuous hours.

Be prepared for some pushback

As with anything new, there will invariably be some pushback if you choose to start promoting Pokémon Go in your organisation. While I’ve seen Pokémon Go as a phenomenon that has gotten an entire sub-culture out of the house and engaging with the world around them, as well as being responsible for breaking down social barriers, many people have a tendency to discount the value of the game and focus on the negatives. As with any sort of damage control, it is good for your front of house staff, or those managing social networks, to be on the same page in terms of how to respond to criticism. Again, I have to commend how the Adelaide Zoo staff have been responding to criticism, and it has also been great to see how other Pokémon players have politely put their two cents in to spruik the benefits of the game. adelaidezoo

Time to think outside the box

I’ve listed just a few things to consider if you want to go down the PoGo route for your museum, but if you find other ways to use Pokémon Go in your organisation I’d love to hear about it. There have been a myriad of great promotions using Pokémon Go, and on the flip-side there have been a myriad of near misses. If you choose to get involved I hope you’re in the first group 🙂


  • Dave Walsh says:

    Thanks David for some great ideas on how to leverage on the interest in Pokemon, really helpful!

    • Catherine Manning says:

      David is full of good advice on visitor engagement through different types of digital interactives Dave, we’re very lucky to work with him.

    • David Walker says:

      You’re welcome Dave. There’s lots of other cool examples out there, and I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of people coming up with cool new ways to use it. We’ve definitely already passed the peak of it’s popularity (the intense popularity in the first weeks was insane) but I’m sure PoGo itself will live on for a while still. I’m eager to see what else people do with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *