Marketing Lessons to Be Learned from Pokemon GO


Pokemon GO has taken America by storm. The game is the child of Niantic’s location based technology. A few years ago, Niantic was just another Google startup. That changed in 2015 when they became an independent entity. They quickly joined forces with the Pokemon Company and Nintendo. The result was a project that would win the hearts and minds of mobile gamers all around the world.

The game is based on the well-known Pokemon franchise. That’s one of the reasons for its huge popularity. We wanted o determine what lies behind the this Pokemon Go craze. To do that, we have analyzed Niantic’s and Nintendo’s marketing strategies.  Thus, here is a dozen marketing lessons to be learned from this huge gaming phenomenon.

Support the Right Values

One of the most important benefits of Pokemon GO is that it motivates players to go outside. This is especially important in the age of advanced technology. The same technology that allows us to do everything from our barca loungers. John Hanke, chief executive at Niantic, spoke in an recent interview for GameBeat. He said that ‘motivating people to take a walk… and explore a nook or cranny, in the part of the city they haven’t seen before… is the core of everything our company does’.

pokemon-go-valuesPokemon GO makes players to go outside

Fan Events Have a Huge Promotional Value

The Pokemon GO craze has initiated many spontaneous player gatherings. These ‘Pokemon Walks’ often gather more than a 1,000 Pikachu fans. Events in question aren’t organized by the companies that stand behind Pokemon GO. They are initiated by the most dedicated players. That gives them an even greater promotional value. Thousands of people walking around and looking at their phones. That is definitely an unforgettable sight.

pokemon-go-gatheringThe biggest Pokemon GO gathering took place in San Francisco

Good Timing Is Extremely Important for a Product Launch

Pokemon GO’s timing was perfect. The game was launched in the beginning of July. This is a time when Americans are trying to find a way to break their summer routine. July is the best month for long afternoon walks. Kids are out of school and most adults are enjoying their days off work. Also, they all have enough time to stroll around town and catch a Pokemon or two. If we look at this from a broader perspective, the year and the decade of the Pokemon GO launch is also perfect. The generation that got hooked on Pokemon is now in their late twenties and thirties. They also have a significant spending power.

Social Media Can Uplift a Product’s Popularity to Unbelievable Proportions

We are living in the golden years of word-to-mouth marketing. Social media has become the biggest review platform. Consumers are more trustful of their friends’ and neighbors’ opinions. Often more than expensive TV and web commercials. Nintendo and Niantic’s marketing teams have realized this. As a result, they’ve opted for creating a social media hype. The alternative was investing their funds in a large commercial campaign.

twitter-pokemon-go#PokemonGO is a trending topic on Twitter

There Is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Most PR experts won’t agree with this. But in case of Pokemon GO, even the worst headlines are benefiting the game’s popularity. ‘Man hits a tree and crashes while playing Pokemon GO’.  This is just one of many similar headlines didn’t influence consumers to stay away from the game. Instead, they made them think that the game is great. That is the only logical explanation for people who risk their lives to play.

Diversified Content Is King

How do you think the Pokemon brand has remained popular all these years? We didn’t see consumers going crazy about the Donkey Kong or The Legend of Zelda releases. So, what makes Pokemon special, compared to other franchises? It’s their content marketing strategy. They applied content marketing tactics, even before the beginning of the digital marketing age. is a ‘Pokemon fans’ Mecca’. There you can watch cartoons, play free games and explore Pokemon directories. The secret behind the game’s popularity lies in the fact that the franchise is constantly releasing quality content. A kind of content that their audience adores. It has kept these little monsters in consumers’ minds for more than 20 years.

Sense of Identity Creates Loyalty

Most people would think that developers viewed children as their main target audience. In fact, they were actually targeting Millennials. The people who have played Pokemon on their Game Boys, 20 years ago. Pokemon GO uses nostalgia to create a sense of belonging and loyalty for the generations who grew up during the nineties. This game reminds Millennials of their carefree childhood. It also presents a nice getaway from work-related stress and other grown up problems.

Reward Your Most Loyal Fans

This game generously rewards its most loyal players, who invest time and money in building their Pokemon team. They get bonuses, incentives and gyms to run, when they level up. Each walking adventure also earns them a reward in the form of a rare Pokemon. A bonus that will help them win their future battles. These rewards lead users through less active parts of the story and keep them focused on playing the game. Even when it messes with their work productivity and social relations.

Successful Games Are Easy to Understand and Play

This game is so simple that neither Nintendo nor Niantic bothered to release an official tutorial. It is very easy for beginners to pick up the game’s basics and have fun with it. Of course, there are people who tend to investigate the game’s mechanics. Their wish being to collect more Pokemon and achieve better result. But this game allows players to have fun and banish boredom without thinking too much. There is no need for developing unique strategies or mastering special skills. You just need to walk around and stay alert for your phone’s notifications.

You Don’t Need an Expensive Ad Campaign

We have already concluded at least one thing about the Digital World. Social proof is more important than expensive ads. Also, using social media is free for all. You can easily promote your product without investing millions in marketing campaigns. Of course, expensive commercials are helpful. They have gained worldwide fame for Call of Duty, GTA and Angry Birds. But even if you don’t have a big advertising budget, you can build a solid brand by creating a top notch product. After that your fans will do the advertising for you.

pewdiepie-pokemon-goYouTube is a perfect example of fans doing the advertising for you. Pewdiepie has already done 3 fun Pokemon GO gaming videos, each having more than 5 million views

A Powerful Brand Can Sell Anything

Pokemon GO is not the first augmented reality game created by Niantic. They have also developed a game called Ingress. That game was also successful in marketing terms, but has never reached global popularity. The difference between these two games is that the Ingress brand was completely unknown to a wider audience before its launch. Most people have already heard about Pokemons from earlier games, cartoons, toys and other fan merchandise. The Pokemon franchise was developed over a period of 20 years. A sole mention of a new game, with the same old cute characters, quickly sparked the interest of Millennials. They’ve been in love with these pocket monsters from their Game Boy days.

Advanced Tech Always Sells Well

The huge success of Pokemon GO is a sign that augmented and virtual reality are entering the marketing game. Consumers love advanced tech! Some people use it because it makes their life easier. Others want to enhance their leisure experiences. There are also people who carry the latest and the most expensive gadgets just because of the prestige. Each one of these groups found its place under the Pokemon GO umbrella. People say that Millennials are digital natives – born and raised in the digital age. This means that Post-Millennials will be AR and VR natives. In turn, this means that the virtual world will be one of the most lucrative fields for future marketers.

While researching this article, a piece of news came out. It says that Pokemon GO is officially the biggest mobile game in US history. It has beat, Candy Crush Saga and Clash Royale, and peaked to more than 20 million daily active users in the US alone. The game is also tracking other popular apps on the app store’s revenue charts. It has already beat Twitter, Snapchat and Google Maps.

pokemon-go-user-dataAccording to SurveyMonkey Pokemon GO became the most popular phone game within 24 hours after release

This outstanding marketing success is not a onetime thing for AR and VR concepts. We can expect more similar games in the future, which will produce the right mix of virtual and real worlds, and break Pokemon GO’s record. The digital world is unstoppably heading towards progress. Marketers need to adapt their strategies to new trends and consumer needs to promote future products. We can see that members of Pokemon GO’s marketing team have definitely done their homework.

BIO: Raul Harman is a professional copywriter and part-time blogger from Australia.

Photo Credit: VisualHunt

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