Viral Wonder Pokémon GO Meets Healthcare Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Three smart phones in a row displaying Pokemon Go game on the screensThe global obsession with Pokémon GO is an instant healthcare marketing opportunity for many providers and facilities. This timely tool is especially adaptable for healthcare businesses with a retail component including dental, optometry, family practice, pediatricians, orthodontists…even urgent care or LASIK practices. You can also include anyone doing event marketing, such as health fairs, trade shows or community meetings.

The good news for social savvy and early-adopter marketers is that it’s a pocket-change budget. You can leverage the Pokémon GO rage for $1.19 an hour…and it’s easy to jump on this fast-moving bandwagon. This social craze is bigger and more engaging than the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Here’s why and how to begin…

“Pokémon GO,” Wikipedia tells us, “is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic and the Pokémon Company.” In short, it’s an engaging (addictive) smartphone app that everyone is talking about. These random sample tweets illustrate:

“Tonight, leaving the hospital, I counted two employees, two patients (in gowns), three visitors, and one doctor playing Pokemon Go. And me. I was, too.” @nickdawson, Johns-Hopkins Sibley InnovationHub, Washington, DC.

“Pulled the car over three times on the way home to catch four Pokémon and leveled up…I may have a problem.” @Joshua_Swanson, marketing executive, Los Angeles.

Within days of its release, industry estimates say there are 9.5 million daily active users. [Recode] Other sources say Pokémon GO app use is outdistancing older social media giants including Facebook and Snapchat. [Sensor Tower research]

Your “how-to” in three quick-start steps…

Heads-up everyone. Here’s an abbreviated short-course to begin using Pokémon GO to bring people to you.

First, study-up on the game and its unique vocabulary. If your location or business is already in Pokémon GO as a “PokeStop” or “Gym”—real world places that are part of the game—that draws foot traffic to your location, or perhaps nearby. Maybe you know all that, but if not…

Next, use Lures. Kudos to the game inventors for this genius marketing spin. Lures are the highly affordable tool within the game that a hospital, healthcare provider or health event can attract players to their Lure location. Purchase Lures—roughly $1.19 per hour—and, like many small businesses and local entities, tap into the out-and-about audience that seems to be everywhere.

And then promote and cross-promote. Use your social media and other communications tools to spread the word about your Pokémon GO Lure, PokeStop and/or Gym information. Post updates on Facebook, or take a page from the retail playbook and provide referral or participation incentives. Of course, ask others to share their experience via social media.

Will Pokémon GO become Pokémon GONE?

Wild Tangela - The Roman GuyA year from now, will Pokémon GO be collecting digital dust next to first-gen Pong, Pac-Man or Donkey Kong? Or, maybe a happy marketing memory that’s colder than the Ice Bucket Challenge? Given the rocket-launch beginning, our guess is that new and inventive territory will follow in augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) participation. New marketing and ideas are already beginning to emerge with charity connections (“play for a cause”), as well as activity and exercise trackers connected to your Pokémon GO pursuit. From a health, wellness and promotion perspective, it’s about participatory activity in the real world.

We’re confident that we’re going to see much more to come in the AR/VR social world, driven by creativity and innovation. And with it, some interesting healthcare marketing success stories. Be sure to tell us about it.

Share your Pokémon GO success story. We’d love to hear from you. With your permission, we’ll publish your experience with Pokémon GO as a healthcare marketing tool. Post a comment below, or reach our editor via email: sam (at)

FOR FURTHER REFERENCE: What the heck is Pokémon Go? An explainer for the out-of-touch and/or old, via The Washington Post. And here’s a fun bonus video that The Roman Guy travel guides used for their own YouTube promotion titled: Pokémon Take Over Rome.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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