What Pokémon Go Teaches Us about Marketing

Pokémon Go has truly been an overnight success story. It shot to the top of the app store on the day it was released. Within 24 hours, it had soared past the heavily promoted mobile game Clash Royale to become the biggest game of 2016, with 21 million daily active users in the U.S. alone. Within three days, it was attracting more users than Twitter, and as of mid-July, it has become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history.

The numbers are truly remarkable, and they have left marketing experts trying to dissect the “formula” behind Pokémon Go’s rapid success. Here is a brief look at what may have led to Pokémon Go’s immediate success, and what Pokémon Go can teach us about marketing.

Brand equity matters.

Pokémon Go isn’t the first game of its kind. In fact, Niantic, the originally-Google-owned software developer behind the game, released a similar game with many of the same features back in 2012 called Ingress. The game features an augmented reality experience, a compelling plot with an evolving story, team-based interactivity, and GPS-based integration, just as Pokémon Go does. The key difference in these games, however, lies in the brand. Ingress had to build an image from the group up, while Pokémon Go had a powerful hand of cards from the get-go.

Consumers respond to nostalgia.

You could also argue that one of the most powerful tools Pokémon Go has had at its disposal is nostalgia. Generation Y’ers and Z’ers seem to respond especially well to nostalgia. Millions of Americans can recall collecting Pokémon playing cards, watching the TV show, and playing Pokémon on Gameboy Color. So while Pokémon has always been oriented to children, its debut as an augmented reality mobile game has suddenly made it relevant once again to teens and adults who are looking to indulge feelings of nostalgia toward their childhood.

Successful marketing understands trends and jumps on them.

Trends never last long, so it’s highly important for successful marketers to constantly be understanding new trends and riding on their coattails. Back in early July, for example, Amazon posted an image and link to a backup mobile charger on Twitter, along with the caption, “Because #PokemonGO.” It was simple, used “webspeak,” and reflected a true understanding of the Pokémon Go user’s lifestyle. Shops, cafes, and restaurants, meanwhile, responded by purchasing lures and becoming Pokémon hunting hotspots for a short period of time. So you don’t always have to come up with a “Pokémon Go” of your own—you can also draw on the major successes of other company campaigns.

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