What Retail Marketers Can Learn from Pokémon GO
I must admit; I do not understand the whole Pokey-thing-whatever. I have spent the last three days in Times Square, putting my left hand in, taking my left hand out, shaking it all about and turning myself around. The only thing it’s been “all about” is sidelong glances from rapidly retreating tourists.
Ha! Just kidding. Of course I’m playing Pokémon GO. I just hit level 14 and earned a bunch of extra experience points by evolving Pokémon while using a Lucky Egg.
If you haven’t heard of it – which would be quite shocking (Pikachu pun absolutely intended) – Pokémon GO is an augmented reality app that has changed the world as we know it (until the next thing comes along). The game encourages players to get off the couch and go into the real world to catch creatures known as Pocket Monsters (Pokémon for short). You then force the captured Pokémon to do battle with one another. It’s like a cross between slave trading and cock fighting, but cuter.
The daily use of the app has far exceeded that of the popular dating app Tinder (which prompted Real Time host Bill Maher to observe that Americans would rather catch Pokémon than have sex. “How sick is that?”). The number of those playing the game has also topped Twitter’s daily user numbers, and more people are spending time with Pokémon GO than they are on Facebook.
Rob Marvin of PC Magazine sums it up nicely when he says, “We’re living in an entirely new Pokémon GO-driven economic environment: the Pokéconomy.” It thrills me to know that in ad agencies and marketing firms across the land, there are clusters of creatives seriously debating the underlying character traits of Squirtle, Jigglypuff and Bulbasaur, and how they best align with particular brands.
Niantic and the Pokémon Company – the minds behind the game – are clearly doing something right. Marketers should be watching, taking cues and inspiration from this pop culture juggernaut. Remember, many great retail marketing ideas started somewhere beyond retail-land. Observe everything, borrow freely and adapt bravely and without abandon.
So what did the Pokémon folks do that retail marketers can learn from?
They created an exclusive club – and invited everyone to join. One can only find specific Pokémon in certain areas. This is presented almost as insider information, giving players the feeling that they are among the first to explore different places and discover new Pokémon. And because “everyone” is playing, no one wants to be left out.
They capitalized on nostalgia. Humans are naturally nostalgic. Companies can key into this and make shopper connections that resonate on many levels. Much of the app’s success stems from the “remember the good old days” factor. Many look at it and fondly relive their days being part of the group, trading cards, battling each other on classic Gameboy Colors and waking up early to watch the latest adventures of Ash and Pikachu. Niantic and the Pokémon Company have taken childhood dreams of catching and training Pokémon and have placed them into the now. Memories have been made into moments.
They made big buzz. Social media has been the engine driving the Pokémon GO frenzy. The release of the game was staggered across the globe. Players in Australia and New Zealand got to enjoy the game first, followed by the US and Japan. Social media erupted with posts about people’s experiences, which made those yet to get the game all the more eager. The game’s domination of both social media and traditional news coverage has created an awareness that’s inescapable. Many didn’t even know they wanted to play until they saw other people enjoying it.
Being one of the first games of its kind hasn’t hurt either. While this isn’t the first augmented reality game, it’s the first one with such a recognizable franchise attached to it. This has created a myth-sized legend about how Pokémon GO is revolutionizing the video game industry and AR.