Commentary

Pikachus And Zombies

Ok, I’m freakin’ out.

This past week, my life has looked too much like early scenes from “Dawn of the Dead” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” You know, the ones where the protagonist increasingly encounters people in full zombie form. First, there’s one, then two, and pretty soon the brain-dead are outnumbering the brain-living.

Of course, I’m referring to the Pikachu plague that is Pokémon Go. If you’ve left the house in the last few days, you know what I mean.

The outbreak is so bad that the NYPD just issued an advisory warning all Pokémon-playing New Yorkers to stay alert to their surroundings. And, in San Diego, two guys just fell off a cliff while chasing the imaginary cartoon characters. 

It’s not like people weren’t glued to their phones before Pokémon. But this is different. Players literally look like zombies because they’re physically moving around, yet clearly experiencing something that doesn’t quite line up with the world around them. They’re in another world. 

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In other words, people are getting their first taste of augmented reality, which -- along with virtual reality -- is on the verge of redefining media, entertainment, and communication.

And, the shift seems inevitable. Between Pokémon Go’s meteoric rise and the billions that investors are pumping into AR and VR, virtual and real words are clearly on a collision course.

For marketers, this is great news. Pokémon Go is reportedly driving a ton of in-store sales, and parent Niantic Labs plans to keep the party going with sponsored locations.

But, that’s just the beginning. The more that people agree to have their reality augmented with a virtual layer, the more opportunities marketers will have to manipulate their behavior.

Because, what’s easier to control than a zombie?

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