16 Handles, a frozen yogurt chain located throughout the East Coast of the US, realized quickly that Pokémon GO could increase its brand recognition by advertising what Pokémon users can capture by visiting one of the chain’s 40 locations.
“The fervor about it was so strong that it seemed silly not to get on the same side of it,” 16 Handles Digital Marketing Associate Brad Garoon told DairyReporter.
When Garoon first learned about the app’s wild popularity he promptly downloaded it and found that there was a Pokémon hiding in one of the 16 Handles New York City locations.
He then shared his discovery with @16Handles’ nearly 16,000 Instagram followers with the following post:
The Instagram post inspired another social media tweet of a frozen yogurt resembling a PokéBall, which was more in line with the photo quality of 16 Handles brand page and gained even more user engagement, Garoon said.
The attitude of proactively engaging in major social trends has spread to the company’s other franchise locations who are using their own Facebook pages to advertise the store’s participation in Pokémon GO.
“Our franchises are really making the most of it,” Garoon said. “We’re trying to associate ourselves with the trend as much as possible.”
Gets people in the door
Garoon said that 16 Handles’ franchise already promotes foot traffic as its self-serve format encourages people to enter and sample the chain’s rotating yogurt flavors.
Similarly, Pokémon GO can only be played successfully if users make an effort to explore their surroundings, which may include wandering into a self-serve frozen yogurt establishment to capture a Pokémon.
Garoon sees wandering customers, who may be more interested in the augmented reality app, as an advantage for 16 Handles.
“If people wander in for another reason, that’s great for us,” Garoon said.
Easy Breezy, frozen yogurt chain with three locations in San Francisco, California, has seen an uptick in business since Pokemon GO launched.
"We didn't know it was happening at first," Easy Breezy owner Ariel Ford said. "But we've ended up getting more business from it."
Ford credits the increased foot traffic to the game alone; the frozen yogurt chain has not done anything to promote it via social media.
"The game itself is getting people into the store," Ford said. "We have a pretty high conversion rate once people start sampling our frozen yogurt and ice cream."
Larger industry trend
President of the International Frozen Yogurt Association, Susan Linton, says Pokémon GO is part of a larger trend of video game developers teaming up with frozen yogurt chains.
“The partnerships build on the fact that video games and frozen yogurt are both family friendly and about creating opportunities for fun memories with friends and family,” Linton told DairyReporter.
According to Linton, unlike other promotional partnerships like the Nintendo Game On promotion with Yogurtland launched this summer in the US, Pokémon GO is accessible to almost all frozen yogurt businesses.
“Pokémon GO is different because even smaller frozen yogurt shops can benefit from the excitement surrounding the new augmented reality game."
Luring Pokémon GO users via social media
Finding out whether your business is a PokéStop can be a powerful social media tactic. Several frozen yogurt companies have advertised that their businesses are harboring Pokémon. Once Hocking Hills Frozen Yogurt in Ohio learned it was a PokéStop they blasted the news out to its Facebook page:
Orange Leaf, a frozen yogurt shop in Missouri, also offers a discount if users screenshot their Pokémon capture between certain hours:
Others likes POP Culture Frozen Yogurt in Missouri are creating social events around the trend by hosting a Pokémon GO meetup:
Capitalizing on PokéStops
In addition to simply advertising their location, stores that discover they are PokéStops, or are near one, can bring customers in to the store by purchasing lure modules through the game, which adds more of the Pokémon creatures for 30 minutes.
Other locations are offering discounts for players who belong to one of the three different colored 'teams' that can be joined through the game.
The interest in the app has meant Nintendo, the company that created Pokémon, has seen its shares rise by more than 50% since the release of Pokémon GO. The game was launched in the UK July 14 after considerable global success since its launch in Australia, New Zealand and the US last week.