Players aren’t the only ones going wild for the Pokemon Go app. Alberta businesses are using the game as a marketing technique to get gamers through the door. “Everyone is running around town like crazy,” says Kayte Rea, manager at Edmonton’s Mercer Tavern. Noticing the hustle and bustle of people glued to their Smartphone outside their doors, the Mercer team changed their business sign to read: “Pokemon Go Users Welcome.” “It actually worked,” says Rea. “People were coming in and sitting down, catching [Pokemon] while having a drink.” If you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, Pokemon Go is an interactive game that uses both GPS and your Smartphone camera to create an interactive gaming experience. As you peruse your surroundings, wild Pokemon appear. Your job is to catch them. Businesses lucky enough to have a PokeStop in their vicinity will see cohorts of gamers, using the location to collect PokeBalls and other useful tools. In Canada, West Edmonton Mall has the highest number of PokeStops under one roof, making it a hotspot for Edmonton PokeMasters. Ashley Naldrett, marketing coordinator for attractions, says the corollary of having PokeStops outside of retailers is an influx in customers for those particular stores. “I can walk outside my office right now and look at a bench that has always been empty, now has 30 people crowded around it playing Pokemon,” says Naldrett. “It’s an obvious increase.” As foot traffic jumps, more people are stopping at vendors – easy coin for those embracing the craze. “Usually in their hand they’ll have coffee or some food.” Retailers that did not luck out with a PokeStop right outside their door are taking advantage of the trend in their own way. You can now stuff your own Pikachu at Build-a-Bear, and pick up everything from Pokemon socks to backpacks at Hot Topic. To further lure gamers to the mall, WEM is holding a contest from Aug. 1-31 that has players taking a photo at each of the 22 PokeStops inside the mall. The grand prize is a $1,000 shopping spree. It’s not only large retailers taking advantage of the trend, Travel Alberta has hopped on the bandwagon by creating a “PokeMaster’s Guide to Alberta” which can be found at www.travelalberta.tumblr.com.
“Pokemon Go has captured the attention of not only our province, but the entire world,” says Phil Klassen, vice president of marking at Travel Alberta. “Our goal is to inspire Albertans to explore every region of Alberta from Crowsnest Pass to Vegreville and beyond.” Travel Alberta selected locations throughout the province that offer a “compelling traveler experience.” Travel Alberta hopes that while capturing Pokemon, players will take part in the area’s tourist attractions and enjoy some of the local fare. There is also a Pokemon Go Calgary Tour set for July 23, where “trainers” will take players to a number of stops around the city to catch the wild critters. The tour, which had 50 spots available, is sold out. While businesses are making easy gains from the interactive game, no one can predict how long the trend will last, and how long Alberta businesses can lean on the free marketing that comes with it. “People are going to get bored in a month or so,” predicts Rea. “In the winter time no one is going to go outside.” She plans on keeping her sign up for just a couple more weeks. The game seemed to come out of nowhere, and the trend could vanish as quickly as it sprouted. “It could last for two weeks, or two years for all we know,” says Naldrett. “It’s really the unknown.” For now, those vendors catching the Pokemon wave can sit back, relax and capitalize on Alberta’s PokeMasters.