Why Marketers Need To Pay Attention To Pokémon GO

In the past week our world has transitioned from Planet Earth into one giant Pokéball. We’ve all been captured by the augmented reality app Pokémon GO, with its 65 million (and counting) users, surpassing Tinder, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. It is THE most popular and most downloaded mobile game in history. People are so intently playing the game that they fall off of cliffs or walk onto highways. It’s evoked a passionate following – the kind every marketer dreams about (minus the hospital visits).

Pokémon GO is a fantastic welcome to the powerful world of augmented reality and disruptive technology. It’s not only bypassing social media channels, but it’s essentially creating a new media channel unto its own. It’s a geologically-based platform that’s not just online anymore; it brings the passé lone video gamer in a basement into question and draws them out into the real world.

It also plays on the inherent desire to be a part of a community especially while being entertained. Think Bachelorette-watching parties, #twitterchats, and Xbox Live headsets. They reinforce the idea that a technology will not do well if it completely isolates the user from other users. Pokemon GO brings the game to us, but it also brings us to one another.

So what do marketers have to learn from Pikachu?


1. When done correctly, nostalgia can be your strongest marketing tool.

You hardly need invest in extensive advertising to get your idea out there; it’s already out there in the hearts of thousands, and it’s your job to create a product that pulls that back to life. At one time millennials everywhere had their bedroom floors covered with Pokémon cards and a crush on Ash (or was that only me?). Rather than create a lacklustre remake series (sorry, Fuller House), or draw out a series until it’s unrecognizable (Pirates of the Caribbean, I’m looking at you), Nintendo has found an entertaining way to bring back Pokémon that is intensely personal and taps into childhood memories. Nostalgia is an excellent and natural marketing tool that builds upon an already-created story, rather than starting from scratch, and Pokémon has absolutely perfected the delicate balance between staying true to the original story and creating a new one.


2. Gamification is one of the strongest motivators for loyalty.

As Vancouver marketer Vanessa Choot points out, Pokémon GO’s success lies in the fact that it continues to play on our naturally attuned reward system. “Brands use gamification as a sales, loyalty or engagement driver all the time,” she writes. “Think of the Starbucks Rewards program – it’s time for ‘Star Dash’ again, let’s see how many coffees I can buy in a week and earn points towards free drinks. Or think of the last time you used your Fitbit to ‘achieve’ a certain number of steps each day, or set goals and tracked progress with Nike+.”

Pokemon Go Funny

3. Your brand is what other people say about you.

We’ve all heard the old adage that branding isn’t what you tell people you are, it’s what people tell each other what you are. The social craze that followed (and is continuing to follow) the release of Pokémon GO shows that having social proof of a good product creates trust, interest, and brand loyalty. Even Hillary Clinton has hopped on the Poké-bandwagon. When you add that on top of the fact that animal shelters are getting Pokémon GO players to walk dogs, it’s hard to not love Nintendo just a little bit more.


4. AV and VR are here to stay.

When you’re playing Pokémon GO, you’re looking at the future of not just gaming but advertising and marketing. Rumour has it that McDonald’s is already in talks with Nintendo to turn restaurant locations into Pokéstops and gyms, and businesses may be able to pay to do the same in the near future. As technology trends shift, so will marketing strategies and campaigns.


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