6 Marketing Lessons We Learned from Pokémon Go

The Pokémon Go sensation is upon us and, for better or worse, it is now a moment in time that will help to define the 2010’s. Whether you believe it or not, this is a fad that – though it will pass – everyone will remember happening. You will remember where you were, what you were doing, how many Pokémon you caught, how many eggs you hatched, and will brag about how many kilometers you wandered searching for Pokémon. Events like this, that define a generation, are few and far between, so fellow marketers, revel in the zeitgeistness of it all.

With that, let’s look at some of the marketing lessons we can learn from this phenomenon. How is it that a niche mobile game, in less than a week, has been catapulted into the every day conversations of millions of people? A lot of it can be attributed to basic marketing principles, all of which, if cleverly applied can help you increase both customer acquisition and retention for your company and products.

1. Good branding will sell anything

Niantic is the company that partnered with Nintendo to create Pokémon Go. Before Pokémon Go, Niantic, created a similar location based game called, Ingress. In fact all of the Pokéstops and PokéGyms in Pokémon Go are a 1:1 map of the spots and events from Ingress. I bet most of you have never even heard of Ingress before Pokémon Go came out. That’s because the brand never became well recognized. It wasn’t promoted and was just one app of millions available in the app stores of Apple and Android. Pokémon, on the other hand, is a brand 20 years in the making. The character design, game quality, and tone have been the childhood memories of every millennial. The appeal of Pokémon has been to awaken the long forgotten dreams of childhood into an augmented reality experience. But, without that strong branding, the game concept is nothing. The lesson here is that all Niantic did was to take Ingress, a gaming failure, and re-brand it. Genius.

2. Social reinforcement (peer pressure) is a bitch

In today’s world we are highly connected immediately to the people we see everyday, the people we haven’t seen since high school (and will probably never see ever), and random strangers who happen to share a similar interest. Every product and business is being reviewed and many of you won’t buy anything unless someone you know has reviewed it first. You won’t go to a business unless you hear someone else talking about it. Pokémon Go is everywhere you turn. You probably started playing because of a Facebook post from one of your friends, or you heard someone at work talking about it, or you saw the mindless teenagers wandering your neighborhood with their phones in front of their face. Either way, you probably said to yourself, what is this thing that people are having so much fun doing and why am I not doing this thing? Trust me, in the face of peer pressure, its impossible not to want to get involved.

3. Timing is everything

Pokémon Go launched in the middle of summer. Kids are home all day with nothing to do. Parents are looking for ways to get their kids off the couch and outside. Imagine if the game had launched in the middle of winter. It would probably still have done well in places with more tropical climates, but nowhere near the success its seeing now. The summer launch date is no coincidence. In a broader scope it’s also 20 years after the original launch of the Pokémon game. As I said before, millennials are driving a lot of this because the fans who were children when the game first came out are now in their 20’s and many of them have significant buying power.

4. You don’t need a weighty ad campaign

Do you remember that awesome trailer leading up to the launch of Pokémon Go? The one where trainers walk, run, and bike to catch and battle Pokémon. No? Me neither. Either the marketing team from Nintendo and Niantic are the smartest people in the world and realized that this was going to be a hit, so why spend millions on advertising…or…they didn’t know what they had. As international releases have been delayed to deal with unexpected server load issues, my bet is on the latter. Still, the branding, timing, and especially the word of mouth advertising has made any thought of traditional advertising a moot point. The lesson here is that you don’t need a huge advertising budget to be an effective marketer. Easier said than done, but you just have to connect with people. Create your own brand advocates.

5. Low learning curves lead to higher adoption rates

Unlike many games today, when you download Pokémon Go, there is no lengthy tutorial, walkthrough, or instruction of any kind. You’re given a Pokéball a Pokémon appears and you catch it. Now you have to start walking. Its really easy to pick up the basics of the app (and in case you’re having a hard time, the 10 year old kid down the street will be more than happy to give you some tips). You can go online to view videos of other Pokémon trainers imparting their wisdom, but all you really need to do is wander around, look at your phone occasionally and stay alert for phone vibrations (which most of us are already trained to do). Well-designed websites, apps, and SaaS products (like AVID) welcome new users with open arms and create an experience that is extremely easy for new users to get started. Successful apps like Instagram and SnapChat are other great examples of how a user-friendly interface can help the adoption process.

6. Reward ongoing investment

Getting new clients is great, turning those clients into long-term revenue streams is even better. In Pokémon Go, like all free-to-play games, players get rewarded for leveling up, taking on gyms, catching new Pokémon, and even walking. The thrill of evolving your Pokémon, hatching eggs, or winning a battle is enough of an incentive to keep players coming back for more, even through some less than exciting points in the game. If you want to increase customer loyalty you need to reward your users for continuing to use your product. The incentives don’t have to be big, in this case you can focus more on quantity than quality, but they should still be meaningful. Along with having a superior, reliable product, referral programs, rewards points, and Christmas gifts are among the ways that businesses can create loyalty and reward clients’ continued use.

AVID has seen a lot of success using these marketing techniques. More than 70% of our new clients come from client referrals and seeing AVID being used among their peers. Many clients who switch are up and running new campaigns within a week. We also offer a referral program to reward current clients for talking about AVID with their peers and colleagues. For any of these marketing techniques to work you have to start with a great product, if Pokémon Go had been a wreck of a game, it wouldn’t have caught on. AVID is one of the best ad servers on the market today.

If you’re looking for a way to optimize your display traffic, or manage the ad space on your website, sign up for a free demo of AVID today.