Is Pokémon Go Changing our Behavior?, by William Reese

If you are in the marketing or digital space, you’ve probably already seen numerous articles about the Pokémon Go phenomenon.

Pokémon — the core brand — is so popular that it’s in the Microsoft Word Dictionary. And on July 19, the word was added to Pokémon has been around for 20 years. One of its strengths is how it appeal to a wide range of demographics.

Look around your office; I bet you can spot a secret Pokémon Go player. They’re the ones randomly wandering around staring down at their cell phone, especially in strange locations, eventually stopping, and then swiping one finger up throwing a virtual ball.

5 ways Pokémon Go will transform brand marketing

1). Data and Privacy
 Pokémon Go tracks everything. It is actually closer to being a Personal Health Record than any system designed to date. It has full access to Google email account information, a “fault” it is working to fix. More than 4 million people have given very open access to their data, behavior, and systems. The security articles are already pouring in. It will be interesting to see if this spurs a greater dialogue on privacy and security or could be another bad example of a mass vulnerability. In today’s world, data is currency, and to play the game, people are paying in data, even if they don’t spend real dollars.

2). Positive Behavior

In just a few days more people have become physically active with this than with years of use with some fitness trackers and apps. To unlock certain aspects, the game requires kilometers of walking, and is designed well enough to avoid giving credit for driving in your car! It provides rewards as you capture more rare creatures and achieve a variety of goals. People are motivated to join and to not be left out, to reach achievements first, and to connect with others. It’s interesting to note that walking more wasn’t a goal of the app, but a healthy side effect.

3). Familiarity Matters
 The experience taps into some already common mobile behaviors. It feels a bit like Waze meets Pokémon. Simple enough for anyone to understand and start. People use GPS and maps almost every day. It allows people to share photos of their captures, which is another very familiar behavior. The core experience is very visual and doesn’t require very much to make it globally relevant. Understanding what people do naturally with digital tools is an important aspect to tap into when designing a new program.

4). Location, Location, Location
 The game actually builds upon another virtual reality game by the same developer called Ingress that leveraged its Google map experience and players from around the world to tag unique locations. The activity is very localized and community based. Even local police departments have begun to highlight where NOT to go to capture Pokémon. It is an interesting bridge between global and hyper-local. People are joining a worldwide community but acting on a local scale. This behavior is very interesting to consider from a population health standpoint.

5). Transmedia Brand
Pokémon is a great example of a brand designed to live across media channels. Originally thought of as a card game, the reality is that the core brand and characters were crafted to work in TV, in video games, in print, as toys, and now as a truly mobile experience. The essence of the brand has always been pretty straightforward and simple, which helps it to travel across devices without adding complexity. When considering your brand experience, ask the question “what is the core essence that travels well?”.

 It was impressive how quickly this fairly demanding game swept through popular culture in just a couple of days. This dynamic was especially noticeable if you have kids at home of a certain age. If you decide to try it out, I’d recommend being selective with what account, as I said the privacy and security issues are significant. Overall, I do think Pokémon Go will spark an appreciation for what digital tools can do from a global to local scale to support personal behavior change and community engagement.

What ways do you see Pokémon Go transforming brand marketing? Let me know what you think.

To understand the hype around this game, see for yourself here.

This blog originally appeared at Gets Results in Action.

Opinions expressed in this blog are of the author and may not represent Cognizant’s point of view.

William Reese

As Co-President & Chief Innovation Officer at Cadient, William Reese leads the innovation team to identify strategic opportunities within the healthcare space…

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Originally published at on August 4, 2016.