GO GO GO — THE SECRET SAUCE BEHIND THE POKEMON GO PHENOMENON
Be honest. How many of you have thought about spending your weekend searching for Pokémon over the last month? Loathe it or love it, the Pokémon Go app is one of the best examples of how augmented reality is taking the world by storm. But what is the secret to its success?
For years, we’ve been told that hyper targeted content and marketing strategies are what win big news. The overwhelming public response to Pokémon Go stands in defiance of this mind-set and reveals more about digital marketing than just our thirst for fictitious Japanese cartoons.
In one fell swoop and with next to no advertising spend, the Pokémon franchise that launched in 1995 has resurrected itself in triumphant fashion. It has crossed genders, races, generations, and cultures to become the phenomenon it is. Now it promises to revolutionise advertising.
The transcendence of Pokémon Go can be seen in the number of downloads. The app has been downloaded on 5.6 percent of all Android devices in the US. It has been downloaded on more Android phones than Tinder. It has surpassed Twitter in daily active users on Android.
Having found a uniquely generic targeting approach to marketing ‘Pokémon Go fever’, as it has been affectionately dubbed, has had a life-altering impact on everything from government policy to trespassing violations and career decisions. It seems we will stop at nothing to catch Pikachu and his friends. In this senses, the app opened a Pandora’s box that is still unfolding.
Last month, Saudi Arabia renewed a fatwa put in place on the use of Pokémon Go, after already banning Pokémon cards popular in the 1990s. The Israeli Army banned soldiers from using the app, Aerospace company Boeing has had to ban the app during work hours. A man in New Zealand has received messages of support globally after quitting his job to ‘catch ’em all.
At the same time, while the business strategy behind Pokémon Go may appear accidental, its execution has been extremely calculated. Niantic Labs, the developer behind the app, is currently making US$10 million a day. The app’s overnight success has doubled Nintendo’s share price. Even Apple believes it can create US$3 billion in high-margin revenue from the app by 2018.
Pokémon Go has also developed a philanthropic edge. Syrian graphic designer Saif Aldeen Tahhan has created a series of images based on the hugely popular mobile game, Pokémon Go, to highlight the plight of people in war-torn Syria. Images include phones held up against cities ravaged by civil war and items needed by citizens making the perilous sea crossing to Europe.
Moving forward, the next big Poké-winners could be in retail and hospitality. Especially since businesses have the option to attract players by purchasing a ‘Lure Module’ that brings monsters to ‘Pokéstops’ for 30 minutes — and presumably customers hot on the heels of those monsters.
This could provide a welcome boost to retailers, whom let’s face it, are struggling to reach footfall traffic of previous years by leveraging Pokémon Go to drive traffic instore. Likewise, hotel guests can be enticed to restaurants and bars by deals that are aimed specifically at users.
According to the New York Post, a New York pizzeria saw business increase 75 percent after it dropped a ‘lure’ in the game for US$10. Other restaurants are advertising that their locations happen to be ‘Pokéstops’ and ‘Pokémon Gyms’. If comments made by the CEO of Niantic Labs are anything to go on the biggest opportunities for brands on Pokémon Go may not exist yet.
In addition to in-app purchases, John Hanke — the man at the helm of Niantic Labs — recently told The Financial Times “there is a second component to our business model at Niantic, which is this concept of sponsored locations”. In a region obsessed with gaming and mobile technology, Pokémon Go is bound to be a huge consumer success when it officially lands in the Middle East.
Early adopters accessing US downloads are already driving big online conversations on social media across the region. Time will tell whether the popularity that Pokémon GO is enjoying will continue or fade — as advertisers leveraging this technology could be the key to aligning with a regional gaming industry that is expected to grow to US$4.4 billion, from US$1 billion now.
‘My 5 ways to Pokémon GO’
1. Use Facebook to let Pokémon GO users within a certain radius know they’re welcome
2. Hijack Google search results through strategic disruptive advertising campaigns
3. Advertise a voucher for Pokémon GO players on the Google Display Network
4. Incentivise customers to check-in on Facebook with a discount or reward
5. Use sponsored Tweets to target users who follow relevant accounts