Poké It Up: How to Catch Millennials with Pokémon GO at Your Museum

For $1.19 an hour, you could have more visitors than your busiest holiday weekend.

Pokémon GO has taken the Internet by storm.  The app was released a week ago, and already museums and cultural institutions are seeing a marked increase in visitors.  Best of all? Most of these visitors are the coveted millennial audience!

So why should museums embrace Pokémon GO?  Blaire Moskowitz gave us a first look at the potential of the app to engage audiences.  Now, we’d like to share with you an in-depth look at how to use the app’s potential to attract new audiences and what this could mean for museums.

Pokemon in the Mini Museum
Image courtesy Mini Museum.

How to Find Out if Your Museum is a PokéStop or Gym

As of publication, no official map of all the PokéStops and Gyms exists.  But there are two ways you can find out if the app will attract players to your site:

(1) Use the online map of portals created for the game “Ingress,” also developed by Niantic.  Check it out here, by installing the Ingress app on your phone and signing in.  You can then use the searchable world map to find the “portals” (which are PokéStops and Gyms in Pokémon GO). 

(2) Open the Pokémon GO app on your phone and look for the tall structures with little Pokémon near the top.  Here’s a screenshot of what to look for:

Screenshot of Pokemon GO GPS overlay
Blue hotspots are PokéStops, while PokéGyms are yellow with Pokémon at the top. The pink area is a Lure. Image courtesy Blaire Moskowitz.

Want an easy way to capitalize on being a Gym? Order Pokémon Gym badges that are customized to your museum, and offer them for sale or as giveaways to players.  Hold a battle of the trainers and whichever team ends up holding the Gym, gets the badges!

Promote Your Local Pokémon on Social Media

Now, it’s time to show off your institution as a Pokémon GO hot spot!  Social media is the perfect way to advertise your invitations to players.  You can do a general post stating how many PokéStops and Gyms you have on site, and inviting players to come hang out.  

Carnegie Museum of Art post on Facebook inviting players to help clear the galleries of Pokemon

MaasMuseum post on Instagram inviting players to visit

For even more audience engagement, have a staff member take screenshots in the app as they find Pokémon in your museum!  This is especially great if you find rare or valuable Pokémon.  Park rangers at the National Mall and Memorial Parks got in on the action – sharing photos of staff doing fun poses with Pokémon:

National Mall post on Facebook reminding players of etiquette and announcing Pokemon tours

Advertise Your Pokémon with Boosted Posts

Want to reach a wide audience?  For as little as $50, a Facebook Ad could go a long way in promoting your post.  Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Post a fun photo and invitation to Pokémon GO players on your Facebook page.  Make sure that your image has little or no text (you can test it on this page) and no vulgarity.
  2. After posting, click the “Boost Post” button on the post itself.
  3. In the pop-up, enter the following:
    1. Under Audience:
      1. Location – within 25 miles of your site or metro area, or 50 miles if you live in a more rural area.
      2. Interests – “Pokemon” (and any other related tags that come up, such as the trading card game or movies)
      3. Age: 18-45
    2. Budget & Duration: Typically, we’ve seen great success by doing a $50 budget for 1 day.  This ensures your ad reaches the most people in the least amount of time.
  4. Fill in your payment information, if needed.
  5. Click the “Boost” button.  Facebook will then review your ad and approve it.

You can then track your ad in Ad Manager, to see how many likes, shares, and comments the app gets.  Remember to monitor your Facebook Page’s notifications, and respond to any customer comments asking for more information as soon as possible.  Check out this article for more Facebook advertising tips.

Throw Down a Lure, Sit Back, and Watch Them Bite

One important feature of Pokémon GO is the ability to purchase Lures.  Lures increase the rate of Pokemon generation in a designated area for one half hour, typically near a PokéStop.  That may not sound powerful, but with players only being able to catch one Pokémon per stop, a Lure gets players to stay near one location for extended periods of time in order to catch additional Pokémon. 

A single lure costs 100 Pokecoins, or $0.99.  So for $1.98 an hour, you can attract a millennial audience by giving the players a boost.  For a whole day event (8 hours), $15.84 will get millennials in the door and staying on site for extended periods of time.

Walter Chen figured out the most cost-effective method of using Lures:

What’s even more incredible is just how affordable luring is. Let’s do the math. With $100 netting you 14,500 Pokecoins and an eight-pack of Lures costing 680 Pokecoins:

14,500 Pokecoins / 680 = 21 eight-packs of lures

(21 * 8)/2 = 84 hours

$100/84 hours = $1.19 per hour

According to Chen’s method, $100 would buy you ten and a half days worth of Lures – for only $9.52 per day! 

Bonus: You can stack lures as well!  By stacking lures (using two or more at the same time in close proximity), you can double the amount of Pokémon appearing on site!

PokemonGO Lure Price Menu
Lures are a potentially inexpensive way for museums to attract players into their spaces.

Don’t forget: Tweet or post about your Lures on Social Media!  If you tweet out that at a specific time, you’ll be hosting Lures, players will come.  Have staff nearby ready to answer questions and guide players to the Lures, or even offer free WiFi to enable players to avoid using up their cellular data.

You can even do a test of this, purchasing one Lure for $0.99 and seeing what happens.  We bet the results will speak for themselves!

How to Purchase Lures:

  1. In the Pokémon GO app, tap the red Pokeball at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Tap “Shop.”
  3. Scroll down and tap the purple, box-shaped Lures to purchase.  You’ll re-direct to your app’s store payment system.
  4. Follow the steps to pay for the Lures.
  5. Once you’ve finished purchasing and are back in the app, tap the red Pokeball again.
  6. Tap “Items.”
  7. Tap the purple Lure to activate!

Louisville Zoo Pokemon Go Gathering banner from Facebook

Create a Pokémon GO Event + Promote It on Facebook

Want to really attract players and show off your museum? Make it an event!

Hold an after-hours hunt specifically for Trainers, so as not to bother other visitors and focus on introducing players to the awesome collections in your museum.  Have a designated “hunt master” or “battle master” that players can find to battle for special prizes.  Offer up fun trivia challenges about objects on display as a way to get insider tips on where the best Pokémon are to be found.  You can also offer Google Play or iTunes gift cards as prizes, which players can use to purchase in-app items. 

Better yet – add a Pokemon Lure to an upcoming event to attract more visitors.  The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area had a BioBlitz event planned, and quickly saw the potential.  They added a few Lures to the Visitor Center and in-person tote board next to their existing board to draw in Pokemon Trainers.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area facebook post about BioBlitzing and Pokemon

You can also add more fun with Pokémon-inspired drinks, food, and fun crafts!  Hold a Pokemon Crafts Day, which is especially good for younger players.  You can link the Pokémon found to objects on display:

  • What paintings would Pokémon inhabit?  
  • Can you paint an Impressionist Pokémon?  
  • Hold a Pokémon scavenger hunt – either using the app or hiding cutouts of Pokémon around your museum – and the one who gets the most gets a prize!
  • Connect Pokémon to their real-world counterparts.  The game already does this in some ways, basing many characters off of real-life animals.  What animals do Pokémon most resemble?  Could Tyrantrum beat a T. Rex? Which animals would be on your team of real-life Pokémon?
  • What does Pokémon say about modern social issues?  Can you connect Pokémon to discussions about conservation, evolution, immigration, or incarceration?  
  • Each Pokémon is a different type, and type often dictates how well Pokémon battle against one another.  Can you explain why electric Pokémon are weaker to water Pokémon, and how that interaction exists in real life?
  • Connect Pokémon to their real-world environments.  Love water Pokémon?  What types of ocean habitats would those Pokémon live in?  What kinds will you find in a local park or natural area?  If the Pokémon habitat was threatened, how would we save it?  

There are so many ways to connect Pokémon to the real world.  All you need is to let your imagination run wild, to talk with players, and to embrace the notion that Pokémon is a virtual counterpart to much of our real-world experience.

Create Guided Tours to Catch ‘Em All

Want to embrace players, but also ensure that your site’s rules are followed?  Implement guided tours for Pokémon GO players.  Have a staff member who knows the app (or plays it) guide players around your site.  By offering Pokémon GO tours, you can cater to players, while ensuring that they learn proper etiquette for your site and don’t disturb other visitors too much.

For example, the Schenectady County History Society is hosting “Take the Stockade! Pokestop History Tour on July 14.  They’ve invited players to join them for a Thursday evening full of lure modules, gym battles, discussions about different Pokémon, and exploration of the Stockade while presenting stories behind the different PokéStops.  As of time of writing, they already had over 103 people interested in the event and 25 going!

Moving Image Museum Instagram photo
“Spotted: a Poliwag about to play #TRON at our #ArcadeClassics exhibit! #Pokestop #Pokémon GO #gottacatchemall #games” via Moving Image Museum.

Integrate Pokémon into Exhibits

How can Pokémon fit into your current exhibitions?  One museum is currently investigating how the app could attract new audiences:

“In terms of what’s next, I want to see if there is a way to further engage with these visitors once they are in our doors – virtually and inside the physical museum walls. Do we connect the Pokémon game experience with the history of play and playmaking?”

By meeting visitors where they are, and connecting Pokémon with existing programming, museums can showcase that they want to be engaging spaces for visitors.  It also provides a doorway to showing off awesome collections and stories in a way that is meaningful and relevant to visitors.  

Offer Discounts or Comforts

On Reddit, lots of examples of institutions embracing the app are being shared by Pokémon GO players.  One brew house, that is also a Pokemon Gym, is offering discounted drinks to Pokémon GO players who are part of the team that holds the gym.  All the players have to do is show that they belong to the team on their phone’s app, and they get discounted drinks or free t-shirts! 

Museums can capitalize on this – and here’s how:

  • Offer discounted admission to team members who hold your Gym, or even players in general! 
  • Already have discounted or free admission – especially for children? Post on social media about your admission policies, showcasing that you’re an affordable (or free!) space for players to safely play the game, as the Mount did on Instagram:

The Mount Instagram post on Pokemon

 

  • If you have an on-site bar, consider offering discounted drinks or specially themed drinks to attract players to stay and sip.  
  • Host a Pokemon Happy Hour or a Meetup with discounted admission.  Create a hashtag for the meetup and have the best image tagged with the hashtag win free tickets to come back!  
  • Give free water to players, and post signs showing where shady areas or A/C is available, especially if your site features outdoor PokéStops and Gyms.  Just being nice and inviting players in for a break can go a long way to showcasing the culture of your organization and your space as an inviting, communal place.  Who knows – that short break may turn into a museum adventure!

Most Importantly, Understand

Know what got players in your door.  As John Rudy of the National Park Service explains in the video below, Pokemon is a cultural phenomenon that’s not going away anytime soon, and the  Pokémon GO app is a blessing for museums, historic sites, and other public institutions.

Want more proof? Museums across the United States have seen a marked increase in visitors already, including the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida:

“We sent out a Facebook post on Friday about the 15 PokeStops and two gyms on the grounds of Morikami. The post went viral, receiving 1,700 likes, 522 comments, and shared 1,309 times. The museums saw a 25% jump in attendance this past Sunday, July 10, due to the Facebook post.”

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens facebook post on Pokemon

The Staten Island museums have also seen an increase, and has begun offering deals to players who come to the museum looking for a battle.  And at the Alice Austen House Museum, nearly 40% of the visitors over the past few days came because of Pokemon. 

Even our Museum Hack team is embracing the app.  Angel, our VIP Customer Service Team Lead, explained how the app is impacting her and her son:

“This new game brought out the inner adventurer in both of us.  We take multiple walks now during the week to explore, hunt Pokémon, and battle at Pokémon gyms.  Not only that, but I’ve seen some amazing things on our walks that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

There is a local university nearby that is a haven for Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Gyms.  I discovered some really cool sculptures and stained glass work at the university’s church.  It really is amazing what you can see when you stop to wander around. 

We both love science centers and museums.  We’ve visited several and have plans to visit more this summer.  My son is nine, so seeing him excited to go into a science center or museum is exhilarating to me.  I’d love to see more institutions cater to this new technology.  While some places should be sacred, there are many places that would gain from bringing in new people.  There’s a local art museum here that isn’t frequented as much as it should be.  It has some really interesting pieces that I love to look at.  I think if they were to engage with visitors and people nearby using this technology, it could increase their visitors substantially.

Can you imagine having Pokéstops within museums and other institutions?  I think on one hand, some people might just come in to get the stop and leave, while others, like me, might actually look around and be like, “Whoa, why haven’t I been here before…this is amazing!” 

The momentum, hashtags, and interest is already present – now, it’s time for museums to take charge and create strong emotional bonds with the coveted Millennial audience, for very little investment.

That isn’t to say Pokémon GO isn’t free of shortcomings. Notably, the Holocaust Museum is asking visitors to refrain from catching Pokémon, out of respect for the memorial nature of their institutions.  This is entirely understandable, and in talking with players that we know, many understood why some institutions would prefer to not be on the app.  (As of publication, Niantic has not yet released a way for institutions to request removal of PokéStops and Gyms, and the app features a message on launch encouraging players to be mindful of their surroundings.)

Realize that this is a phenomenon: some visitors are going to get excited about your space, while others just want to play the game.  Some want a space that is comforting and accessible, that allows them to play in their way – and that their explorations may lead to becoming intrigued by your institution.  Others may prefer a guided tour or fun event that allows them to play, meet new people, and discover places they may never have visited before.  Train your front line staff to be prepared for both scenarios, with ideas on how to engage players and offer them the chance to “catch ‘em all” while enjoying the museum space.  Recognize that there may be spaces, like parking lots, where visitors could congregate without paying admission, and train your staff on how to direct cars who wish to play the game.

The possibilities are truly endless for how this type of augmented reality and pop cultural phenomenon could aid museums – if only for a brief point of time.  As John Rudy stated in his video,

“This is a gateway drug. It’s that first taste that someone gets that allows them to see that maybe this place isn’t as boring as they thought it was gonna be.  Maybe it could be cool.  ‘Gotta catch ‘em all.’ That’s the tagline of Pokémon, and that’s also the tagline of our parks.  We want people to go to all of them.  To see everything.  To go and witness America.  And if this is something that gets them out there, witnessing America, that’s awesome.”

By embracing Pokémon GO, museums position themselves as community centers: spaces where players can meet to play, chat, and have fun – and maybe discover something new.  In turn, institutions can become more relevant and engaging, embracing millennials’ own passions and showcasing how those passions are related to the incredible stories in museum collections and spaces. 

This article was inspired by Walter Chen’s piece in Inc.  We’re a customer of his company and loved the article, check it out here.

Museum Hack Pokemon tour

Museum Hack is putting our money where our mouth is. We’re testing out some Pokemon tours this weekend, check it out and get tickets here. We will report back with how it goes!


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