Invisible monsters, augmented reality and the future of catalogs

So, how many Pokémon have you caught? You know, I used to chase invisible monsters through the park. They called me crazy. Today, everyone’s doing it. Who’s crazy now?!

Pokémon GO is a legitimate pop culture phenomenon. Launched just this month, the free game app has captivated society and captured attention spans with its “gotta catch ’em all” invisible monster treasure hunt addiction. As if people needed more reasons to stare at their phones.

You may not understand Pokémon GO, but surely you’ve heard of it. If not, ask your kids. Or your co-workers. Daily user estimates range anywhere from 9 to 15 to 21 million, depending on who and how you’re measuring. On Android devices alone, Pokémon GO has surpassed daily users of both Twitter and the dating app Tinder. So odds are many of you are playing it. Some of you will probably stop reading this because you followed a lure or discovered a PokéStop.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “A new app has millions of users in less than a month! How can I get in on that sweet, sweet Pokémon action for my catalog?” Slow down and hold on to your Poké Balls. It’s not that easy.

So you want to replicate Pokémon GO’s success for your catalog brand? That’s like saying, “How do I make something go viral?” Bad news: you don’t get to decide that. Users do.

Making something go viral and catch on like this can be as elusive as snaring a Wild Pokémon. The brand has a built-in fan base dating back to 1996, from the original Game Boy (remember those?) game to the cartoon series to the trading cards. Essentially, Pokémon GO is not some instant success that can be dissected and recreated overnight. But there are valuable lessons to be gleaned from its success, even in our world of printed catalogs. Here’s how:

1. Embrace the Future

Pokémon GO is easily the most popular application of augmented reality (AR) ever put into practice, a telling indication that AR may be the future more than virtual reality. VR requires an elaborate helmet that transports you to a digital world of sensory delights. Whereas AR uses your own phone to overlay a digital component right on the screen. (Note: this is probably the least scientific explanation of AR ever, but you get the point.)

The game’s popularity puts AR into our collective, daily conversation, making it more practical. The more people understand how to use an AR feature, the more brands can put it into practice.

I saw my first printed AR presentation back in 2011. A printer showed how scanning a magazine shoe ad “come to life” on a phone and tablet, giving a 360-degree, “3-dimensional” view of the shoe. This fascinated everyone in the room, while the price to execute proved unrealistic for most brands at that time. Mass consumers’ unfamiliarity with the technology proved an even greater hurdle.

That was then. The future is now.

2. Think Beyond the Page (and Screen)

The USPS has been offering postage discounts of up to 2% for including interactive technology – QR codes, mobile shopping, or sensory experiences – on your catalog. It’s a great incentive to encourage catalogers to embrace technological innovations. For more about the USPS postal promotions for 2016 and 2017, stop playing Pokémon GO for a minute and go to:

With the explosion of AR technology in Pokémon GO, we needn’t be limited to cumbersome QR codes anymore. We can take readers, literally, to another world. IKEA has used AR since 2013. With their app, you can use your phone or tablet to view a piece of furniture in your very own room. That’s more practical than chasing Pikachu down a sidewalk.

Imagine the AR possibilities for your own catalog. We are no longer bound by the printed page. We can create an interactive experience – trying on clothes (like the virtual mirrors at Uniqlo) … designing custom apparel … the possibilities are endless.

3. Galvanize Your Advocates

People love playing Pokémon GO. All you have to do is go outside. Go to the city. Go to the park. You’re bound to find someone on the hunt. People love talking about it. People love playing it with other people. People love it!

When consumers love your brand, reward them. Bring them together. Invite them to share their passion. Make it fun. Pokémon GO proves that if you provide easy access and an irresistible interface to something they love, people will immerse themselves in it. No, you probably won’t galvanize society the way this game does, but you can celebrate your brand by rewarding those who love it most. A creative invitation to interact solidifies the loyalty of your advocates.

What’s next for Pokémon GO? Will it stand the test of time or fizzle well before summer’s end? Time will tell. For now, capturing Pokémon has captured the country. By tracking this zeitgeist, we can apply the lessons for the next cultural phenomenon. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to chasing my own invisible monsters, thank you very much.

I can help you catch Pokémon. Or at least help you with other creative ideas for your catalog. Email me at or call 913-236-8988.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,