Why did Pokemon Go super viral?
Unless you been living in a cave for the last week, you will not have failed to notice the Pokémon craze which has swept the world. More people have downloaded the Pokemon app, than Tinder. Cue the sound of mobile providers rubbing their hands together at all the sales of devices and increased data spend. The popularity of the game has spawned an avalanche of Memes, tweets and jokes, as well as a whole host of celebrity players, from Phillip Schofield on This Morning, to John Mayer in Hollywood.
Pokemon Go has been dubbed “2016’s Blue and Black/White and Gold Dress”. No matter if you are a Pokemon player or Pokemon widow, the subject cannot be ignored by digital marketers.
Why should marketers care about Pokemon?
The main features of this highly addictive game, match with characteristics of the top social networks. Marketers can not only learn from the overnight success of Pokemon Go, but may also have the opportunity to access direct value from the popular game.
Here follows a few of my observations, as to where these lessons can be found, and how a brand might harness the marketing power of Pokemon Go.
Local – Relevance & Immediacy
The app uses GPS to locate the player’s device and display a map of the streets, buildings and “Pokestops” in the immediate area. This makes the game both relevant and immediately accessible for each player, as it is customised to your locality and play can begin anywhere. We are accustomed to this beneficial functionality in Google search results, checking in on Facebook and tagging the location of our tweets and Instagram snaps. Local means relevant and when individually customised automatically, adds extra layers of usefulness and thus engagement. Just as Google+ is dialling down, Google is raising its social element with Local Guides, offering incentives to users who review, update opening times and add photos to business listings and locations, anywhere in the world. Google is gathering users to improve its listings, by harnessing our local knowledge.
Explore – Drive Trial & Footfall
As the map displays Pokemon waiting to be won in the area, players are incentivised to explore around them, to discover the pocket monsters dotted around. Further, Pokemon Eggs need ‘hatching’ by putting the egg in an incubator and the player walking between each go, in order to earn access to the next Pokemon. The distance cannot be cheated by driving around in a car, as the speed of travel signals to the Pokemon servers you are not on foot. The map and requirement for walking mean this game is facilitating and encouraging its audience to get out there, and find new Pokemon in new places.
Gizmodo has compiled this wonderful list of strange Pokestops, including Police Stations and strip clubs. It is not possible to submit a location to this game, but players can lure others to battle in the gyms, by laying down sweeties. To non-Pokemon players this could sound sinister – offering sweets to attract strangers doesn’t work in real life, but you do find a bowl on most reception desks…
It is easy to see how Pokemon Go is delivering value for location based businesses, when extra feet on the street are outside restaurants and shops, but perhaps the game might bring extra audience for advertisers on outdoor spaces, such as buses and billboards – if they look up from their phones.
Competition – Points mean prizes
We humans naturally love to win, and those of us who say we are not competitive, still earn loyalty points and enjoy receiving gifts. Pokemon Go players aim and time throws of pokeballs to capture pokemon, in the quest to catchemall and become a pokemon master.
Foursquare / Swarm taps into our competitive spirit, by applying awards to display on a user profile and placing friends in a leaderboard, awarding and congratulating the most active person each week. Gamification is also tapped into by Google Local Guides, with four levels Guides can work to achieve, bringing a set of incremental benefits with each one, from invitations to exclusive Google events, to more storage (yes please!).
Social – Share tips & fight other players
The day Pokemon Go was released in the UK, I took a stroll around Tooting Common after work. To my surprise and delight, I observed people of many ages and occupations, sharing tips with strangers as to the location of nearby Pokemon.
At one Pokemon “gym” in central London, where several Pokemon were reported to be available, hundreds of people gathered late into the night, to throw digital balls at animated animals. There have also been videos circulating of players arguing over Pokemon locations, which seems like negative press for the app, but to me this over enthusiasm is just another example of how extreme sports fans can take their love of the game too far – I do not wish to highlight the reputation of England football fans, but you see my point.
Social networks by definition, are purposed and powered by the interaction of the users, and brands work to provide content which drives engagement and reach for the business. Pokemon Go is the hot new trend sweeping the pavements of our nation and beyond, which means almost any brand can get involved with this conversation – whether it be flagging nearby Pokestops and gyms to customers, or making a funny Meme.
Despite the widely bemoaned issues with the server, I foresee the addictive nature of Pokemon Go will ensure its popularity for much time to come. Are you playing Pokemon Go? Let me know over on Twitter @ladyofsocial or on LinkedIn.