Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm, satisfying the dreams of every 90’s kid who grew up certain they were destined to “catch ‘em all” and become a Pokemon master. Beyond the game’s addicting fun, marketing lessons abound just as much as the countless Ratatas and Pidgeys hidden throughout this brave, new, augmented reality.
Niantic Labs, Nintendo and The Pokemon Company early this month launched Pokemon Go, enabling players to catch and train 250-plus creatures, collect a number of items at PokeStops and battle at Pokemon Gyms — meanwhile bringing Pokemon into the real world using GPS and augmented reality technology on players’ devices. From humble roots on Game Boy in the ’90s, Pokemon Go is now changing the future of mobile gaming. It’s pure genius.
But it’s not all child’s play. Since its July 6 release, Pokemon Go has reportedly taken in about $1 million in daily net revenue; added $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market value; and could generate a run-rate of more than $1 billion annually. Not bad considering the companies launched the game with relatively no marketing budget, according to Advertising Age.
That’s our first marketing lesson from Pokemon Go: Big marketing and ad campaign budgets don’t always lead to success.
“How many ads did you see for Pokemon Go leading up to its launch? Probably none,” Forbes said, comparing it to recent blockbuster movies that “crammed advertising down our throats to get us into theaters.” Heck, at this point mobile app games are bombarding us with advertising as well. Imagine the marketing budgets for Mobile Strike (you know, the Arnold Schwarzenegger military app) and Game of War which featured a massive ad campaign with Kate Upton as a badass Renaissance-era queen?
Pokemon Go didn’t really need to put too many dollars into advertising — it already had the built-in audience of nostalgic kids-turned-adults to give it a head start. Plus it offers (or tricks people into) physical activity — certainly not common among mobile apps.
“Either the ad executives in charge knew that the success of the app would be dependent on the marketing and viral factors … or they truly didn’t expect the app to be a breakout hit,” Forbes said. “The bottom line here is that you don’t need a huge advertising budget to be an effective marketer. You just have to connect with people.”
Which brings us to the next lesson: Engage with your audience.
What Niantic Labs, Nintendo and The Pokemon Company have learned is that those campaigns don’t mean anything without engaged users. The game “wouldn’t be the success it is without the user engagement it has inspired,” according to Business2Community.com.
“[Nintendo] never tried to win by having the best graphics, sound, animation or visual design,” according to this column in the Detroit Free Press. “Instead, they pour every ounce of their resources and creativity into making a wildly better experience for their customers. They focus on delighting each of their users’ five senses and look for new ways to craft memorable experiences.”
A viral game isn’t always necessary. It’s just about getting your audience engaged and looking forward to what you’re dishing out next.
“You might do that with a special app, an offline event, social networking or even special content,” Business2Community.com said.
Brick-and-mortar businesses are also embracing the Pokemon craze — as restaurants, bars, clothing stores and museums suddenly becoming places to catch valuable Pokemons.
“There is a real opening here for retailers to drive foot traffic with this highly engaged audience,” according to CampaignLive.com. “Wouldn’t it be fun to go to your local McDonald’s and be able to unlock unique content, like a rare Pokemon?”
Which leads us to our third marketing lesson: Embrace the next big thing.
Companies are always trying to figure out the next big thing in technology, and this is where Niantic Labs, Nintendo and The Pokemon Company have succeeded. They’ve keyed on technology of the future: Augmented reality.
“In the past, we’ve argued that Snapchat is on the rise and other social networks will start to emulate it as it continues to grow in popularity,” according to content marketing agency Brafton. “Snapchat has already been playing with augmented reality technology with the filters that they allow users to overlay on their faces.”
“The immense growth in popularity of both Snapchat and Pokemon Go shows us that the innovation provided by augmented reality is resonating with the evolving tastes of consumers.”
This isn’t the first time Nintendo has been ahead of the curve. Its Wii console also started a trend when it launched in 2006 — motion-sensing controllers. Once that debuted, other companies were forced to follow suit.
“The laggards had to make the same investment, but Nintendo got the big lift since it was the first to the party,” according to the Detroit Free Press. “While other game makers will now surely leap on the augmented reality bandwagon, Nintendo grabbed the pot of gold by getting there first.”
Put simply, the faster companies embrace emerging tech, the faster rewards will come their way. Implementing the next big thing should only be done if it makes sense for your company, however.
“Implement technologies or tactics that fit your business needs or have a desirable application for your audience,” according to Whereoware, a Washington, D.C.-based digital design agency. “Pokemon Go’s use of AR is seamless within the context of the game. It serves a specific purpose — bridging the gap between online and offline play and increasing player engagement.”
The technology fits the company’s goals, “instead of Pokemon Go trying to fit (and force) the technology,” the agency said.
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