Gotta Catch ‘Em All

How the World of Pokémon Mirrors the World of Marketing

I’ll admit I was skeptical about the Pokémon Go craze at first. However, after seeing all of the hype about the game and overhearing one too many conversations sprinkled with the prefix “poké-“ in them, I decided to download the app and see what it was about for myself. 

Since the augmented reality game’s July 6th launch, it has racked up a casual 75 million downloads and has become a pop culture icon that people and brands alike are eager to latch onto.

Ever since I made the decision to become an aspiring Pokémon trainer, I have been struck by a few important takeaways from the game, specifically for marketers:

  1. Pokémon Go imitates the ideal consumer journey. Whether we are guiding the consumer on this journey using marketing automation tools, social media campaigns or otherwise, marketers know the best results come from fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with a brand. Pokémon Go gets people of all ages out of their homes, on their feet in pursuit of a common goal and helps them to build community with other users along the way. Isn’t this what we as marketers aspire to create for a brand?
  1. Pokémon Go turns the world of gaming on its head. Gone are the days of teenagers in dark basements, their faces illuminated by the haunting blue glow of a television or computer screen as they tap away on a controller to execute a virtual mission. Pokémon Go gets people out into the light, onto the streets of the “real world” in order to make progress in the game. For marketers, revolution and innovation are critical success factors. What are some ideas that we can turn on their heads the way that Pokémon Go did for the gaming landscape? How can we view things in a new light to revolutionize an idea that may seem at first glance to be too rigid to change?
  1. Pokémon Go hones a popular trend in app development and makes it its own. Pokémon Go capitalizes on current fitness-tracking technology trends such as Fitbit, Nike+ and Zombies, Run! and folds them into the scheme of their app. Like many successful fitness apps, Pokémon Go turns exercise into a game, with competition against both friends and self to receive “rewards.” When users walk certain distances, they are rewarded with the “hatching” of a new, and sometimes rare, Pokémon from an egg. The game inspires people to get up and take spontaneous walks to find new Pokémon rather than spending their time sitting inside (not that I’m speaking from experience…). This positive reinforcement for physical activity motivates people to not only stay active physically, but to also stay active on their app – which could explain why Pokémon Go is topping the charts for daily mobile usage.
  1. Pokémon Go is a game-changer for the future of apps (no pun intended), as well as for the future of marketing via augmented reality. Pokémon Go developer Niantic has confirmed that soon retailers will be able to sponsor locations like Pokestops or Pokémon Gyms that will compel users to flock to the selected area for a chance to stock up on extra items like Pokeballs or for an opportunity to catch a rare Pokémon. Outside of interest in sponsored locations, the app has sparked debate about the future of augmented reality technology and how it can be adapted for use by a specific company or brand. This conversation about how augmented reality technology can influence purchasing decisions has been going on for quite some time now, but with the break-out success of Pokémon Go, more brands are likely to ramp up technology development within the next year to stay ahead of the trend.

It is nearly impossible to look at the overnight success of Pokémon Go and not want to learn from what the game can offer the marketing world. The more time I spend on the app, the more I foster an appreciation for the way that Pokémon Go has capitalized on many current trends while creating a whole new trend of its own.                                                                            

Learning opportunities aside, a lot of people have criticized the app saying that it is just one more way to keep people glued to their phones. I understand the sentiment, but I think that this reasoning misses the point of the game. Yes, it is an activity inherently rooted in technology, but it is also nearly impossible to play without experiencing the camaraderie and community that Pokémon Go has built over the past few weeks. Whether it be through Pokémon pub crawls or happenstance meet ups in a local park on a lunch break, Pokémon Go has brought people of all ages together in ways that few games, and brands, ever have.


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