Something interesting has been happening in the last week or two. My outdoor and fitness-focused social media feed has evolved into a weird hybrid conversation about the outdoors, fitness, and (of all things) Pokémon. I’m not talking about one Facebook thread that got off on a Pokémon tangent, which, come on, we’ve all seen before. I’m talking about almost every conversation seamlessly weaving in Pokémon jargon with outdoor-talk. Friends who are training for Ironmans are talking about leveling up on their training rides. The runners are talking about doing fartleks in order to help their eggs hatch quicker. The hikers are talking about catching Charmanders above 10,000ft. What is going on here?

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Even the author had to try the game out. And it was fun!

Like millions of other Americans (I’m guessing it’s millions at this point), tons of my friends have started playing Pokémon Go, and the interesting thing is how smoothly the game is being integrated into their very active and outdoorsy lifestyles. Unlike Candy Crush or Angry Birds, which people seemed to compartmentalize and keep separate from their “active” lives, Pokémon Go is completely bridging the gap and it’s due in large part to the game’s use of augmented reality.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the phrase, ‘augmented reality’ is a term that describes the use of technology to literally augment reality with images, videos, sounds, etc. In the case of Pokémon Go, the game augments reality by using your phone’s camera to add Pokémon to your physical surroundings. The cool part about augmented reality and Pokémon Go is that you can not only see a digitally enhanced world, but you can also interact with it by chasing around and catching Pokémon.

The ability of augmented reality to let people interact with the real world is the feature to which outdoor gear brands should be paying attention. Outdoor gear brands inherently cater to people who love exploring the world, and now with augmented reality hitting the mainstream this is a new (and non-intrusive) way for brands to interact with their customers while they’re out exploring.

Even the messaging on the Pokémon Go site resembles that of an outdoor brand.
Even the messaging on the Pokémon Go site resembles that of an outdoor brand.

Imagine Pokémon Go, but instead of finding Pokémon your customers can embark on a scavenger hunt to find your virtual gear (e.g. tents, packs, etc.) at campsites, on trails, and on mountain tops, and then they can exchange their virtual gear for discounts on real gear on your website. How great would that be for increasing customer loyalty and brand awareness? It would provide a new and revolutionary way for your customers to interact with your brand while they’re out doing what they love.

If Pokémon Go is any indication, the overlap between techies, gamers, and people who love the outdoors is huge.  Brands should start figuring out how to leverage augmented reality and interweave it into their marketing strategy, whether through games, virtual popup stores (see video below), or even just fun location-based/contextual marketing.


 

 

 

It’s incredible what Pokémon Go has already done to help get people outside, and this is just the beginning.  With the explosion of augmented reality in outdoor recreation, outdoor gear brands had better get ready.