Market Like a Pokemon

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.

You’ve seen them before – the large groups of people standing in public, waving their phones in the air, all seemingly focused on something they can only see through the “lens” of their smartphone’s screen. These people are capturing “pocket monsters” in Pokémon Go – the biggest augmented reality hit of the year. When it was released, the mobile game caused quite a stir. Within three days of being released, the app already had more users than Twitter, and it quickly became the largest mobile game in American history when looking at daily users.

The instant success of the game has made marketers sit up and take notice. While your business may not have an evergreen property like Pokémon to lean on, there are still lessons to be learned from Pokémon Go’s success that can be applied to any marketing plan.

Omni-Channel Marketing

One of the appeals of Pokémon Go is that it offers a unique user experience — the things that happen in-game are connected to the things that happen in the real world through Augmented Reality. As you walk and move around in the real world, the game provides opportunities to capture monsters and level up in-game.

This mix of offline and online experience is called omni-channel marketing and it can be a big boost for your business. For instance, retail juggernaut Wal-Mart already has a dominating presence in offline retail stores, but is now expanding into the online world, attempting to take advantage of this omni-channel opportunity.

Online business owners should be thinking about the opposite — creating an offline presence when their online presence is already strong and established. This can lead to new opportunities, even when they don’t have a physical storefront.

For instance, an online business can use QR codes in their direct mail, or reach out to local complementary brick and mortar businesses for in-store advertising or promotional opportunities. The possibilities of mixing online and offline marketing can lead to unique and exciting opportunities for growing any type of business, whether it’s online or off.

Recognizable Characters

Pokémon Go didn’t have to explain itself to many consumers, as the Pokémon franchise was already familiar to many people. Across dozens of games, comics, cartoons, and even movies, Pokémon is an established brand with recognizable characters.

You probably don’t have a brand with the market penetration that Pokémon offers, but you can still take advantage of one of its strongest points – recognizable characters. People are naturally passionate about the brands they know and recognize. Making your own brand easily recognizable can be a major boost in this regard. Whether this be a distinctive logo or hiring an illustrator to design characters that represent your business, the benefits can boost your company’s mindshare with consumers.

Collaboration and Competition

One of the appeals of Pokémon Go is that you can enjoy it with your friends. The game prompts you to join one of three teams and you can assign the monsters you’ve caught to Gyms to help defend them. You can compete with other teams for these Gym locations, which are found at real locations in your town.

Pokémon Go takes advantage of both collaboration and competition and business owners would be wise to think along the same lines. Collaboration can open up new markets, provide valuable learning experiences, as well as expand your referral network. Competition, on the other hand, can lead to innovation as you attempt to outmaneuver your competitors.

But collaboration and competition don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Joint ventures or affiliate programs already take advantage of both. In short, it’s possible to forge these seemingly exclusive forces with some out-of-the-box thinking.

Drive Local Business

While this may seem like just another trend to some, local businesses can actually utilize the game for marketing purposes. Marketing is about creating and establishing relationships with your customers and taking advantage of the latest trends can help build those relationships. As Pokémon Go players are out and about in the real world, there are various in-game ways to draw them into your local business.

If your business is already designated as a “Pokéstop,” you can boost this by purchasing in-game items called Lures. (Granted, you would have to install the app on your phone to do this, but maybe you’ll end up capturing some rare Pokémon). These increase the odds of finding Pokémon monsters at your location. Several local businesses have had great success with this, netting some huge returns.

There are also Pokémon Gyms within the game that draw users from all over. These Gyms are tied to real world locations. As it turns out, the developers of Pokémon Go accept requests for new gyms. This is a great opportunity for a business owner, and many have already taken advantage. Luring players to your local Gym will increase foot traffic to your location, driving increased sales.

While your business may not lend itself to easy gamification in the same manner as Pokémon Go, the game does have a few lessons to teach about marketing – principally, highlighting the importance of a connection between online and offline. As a business owner, you’ll naturally gravitate to the side that’s providing the most return, but that doesn’t mean you can (or should) ignore the other half. Making connections across channels can offer you new opportunities and make it easier for people to trust and share your business with others. Pokémon Go has successfully mixed several of these forms to great success. Taking a lesson from Nintendo and their runaway hit can improve your marketing plan.

Mark is responsible for managing NSI Partners’ social media properties as well as providing support in client outreach and recruiting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Mark received his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

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A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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