The Pokémon Go phenomenon demonstrates the possibilities of a mash-up of the digital and the physical. For travel brands, the game’s popularity revealed how eager passionate gamers can be to engage with the real world. Another reminder of latent opportunities has come this week from Google – who just so happens to also a part owner of Pokémon Go.

The large tech brand often leverages its Google Maps to showcase the world. By bringing users to unexpected places, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the brand earns media coverage. These efforts also show how fun and games can work to promote destinations. This is bleeding-edge content marketing at work. Google takes a product and highlights what makes it unique through compelling, shareable content.

The latest in this string of earned media  is an “an experiment built with 3D maps, inspired by kids.” Yep, there’s a nice dose of “aww” along with this technology. Meet Verne, the lovable 500-foot Yeti! This cuddly beast wanders the Himalayas, both on foot and via other methods. Hanglider? Check. Jetpack? Check. Vene’s size is a visible measure of the surroundings, making for captivating exploration.

And while Verne has no clear game mechanics, it still feels like a game. It’s less educational and more inspirational. You can’t beat a competitor or make it to the next level. But it still pulls you along for the ride, just as a more traditional game mechanic would. So while it’s not technically a game, the experience feels like one.

The Google Maps team spent the time on this project as a “fun way for anyone to take a summer trip to the tallest mountain range in the world.” Not only does the brand seem passionate about education but also passionate about its memorable technology.

Loyalty through customer memory

Loyalty is also a byproduct of a technologist’s approach to marketing. There’s a reason that Google Maps continues to dominate mindshare in its category. By crafting novel experiences, the brand nurtures a halo effect. Google makes many of its projects, such as Verne, only available on its Android platform. This then increases the perceived value of the platform, as well as the 3D mapping technology.

When it comes to travel, a similar effect is possible. A consumer sees it like this: If a travel brand can deliver such an entertaining (and even magical) experience via a given channel, then imagine what it can do elsewhere. The connection in a consumer’s head is concrete. If it’s possible to bridge into the core offering of hospitality, then the cycle is virtuous.

Google offers many ways to integrate maps into apps via its APIs. The limits are really just the imagination. There’s no hurdle preventing brands from creating these sorts of experiences. The technology is out there. Much of it is free or low cost, and the barriers to distribution are basically non-existent.

For travel brands, this is the time to consider how a passion for gaming can tie into the unique characteristics of a destination or product.  The time is ripe for to experiment with game-based marketing. Especially for destination marketers and suppliers seeking to promote specific regions or products. Add in a dose of virtual reality and a pinch of augmented reality, and game-based marketing hits the sweet spot of inspiration!

Explore the Himalayas with Verne here.