Perhaps you’ve seen them – throngs of zombie-eyed wanderers clutching cellphones in one hand, swiping rabidly with the other; murmuring gibberish under their breaths punctuated by victorious fist pumps.
Perhaps you even know a guy, who’s heard of a guy, who swears he’s seen the infamous Mewtwo, one of the ever-elusive “Legendary”.
No, these impromptu, impersonal public gatherings aren’t the advent of The Walking Dead, nor a particularly sluggish flash mob.
They’re ambitious Pokémon trainers, living their 90’s-era-obsession with “Catching ‘Em All” in the real world.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Pokémon GO is a mobile-based augmented reality (AR) game launched by Niantic on July 6th. Users catch, train, and fight Pokémon within the app by clicking on animated characters popping up on a user map (powered by their smartphone’s GPS) in real-world locations like parks, historical monuments, churches, stores, and more.
Once clicked, the app uses players’ smartphone camera to juxtapose the Pokémon into the user’s current setting, and players swipe their smartphone’s touch screen to throw a Poke Ball to catch it. Though free to download in the App Store and Google Play, users can shell out money via micro transactions for things like incubating their Pokémon eggs or luring Pokémon to their standstill location.
LAUNCH WEEK’S A HIT
Though the app is still rolling out in other countries, estimates of launch-week success suggest it’s on the way to being a world-wide phenomenon. We gathered a snapshot of U.S.-based fanfare.
Similar Web’s first analysis on July 10 estimated the Android-version of the app boasted a larger install base than the dating app Tinder, within its first two days of launch in the United States. Their updated figures found that as of July 11, 10.8% of all Android devices in the US had the app installed.
As anyone who’s launched an app knows, getting someone to install it, however briefly, is an easy feat compared to getting them to actually use it. That’s where Pokémon GO becomes even more compelling.
Sensortower.com, a platform for app store optimization and app industry intelligence, analyzed Pokémon GO from a user engagement perspective. They estimate the average iPhone user spent more time in Pokémon GO (33 m) on the Monday of launch-week than Facebook (22m), Snapchat (18m), Twitter (17), Instagram (15m), and Slither.io (10M).
Keep in mind, this Pikachu-passion is amidst critiques of bumpy performance issues, extensive battery drainage, and viral security concerns.
On the flipside, it’s receiving rave reviews for promoting exercise, encouraging exploration of local communities and historical settings, and getting gamers out of the stereotypical window-less room.
LESSONS FROM POKÉMON GO
Many retail establishments lucky enough to be Pokéstops are cashing in by inviting customers to catch Pokémon, or dropping lures to draw in crowds.
We have no doubt the Pokémon GO of future iterations will capitalize on the game’s engagement, perhaps by letting retail establishments pay to be Pokéstops. We’ll stay tuned, but in the meantime, here’s what we’ve already learned from Pokémon GO’s launch-week success.
1. LOCATION-DATA, POWERED BY MOBILE’S GPS TECHNOLOGY, IS A GAME CHANGER
Thanks to real-time location data, Pokémon GO is succeeding where so many marketers and businesses fail: tying together online and offline worlds and driving a cohesive, engaged brand experience in both.
Whether we’re using PPC ads, email marketing, or plain old print fliers, a marketer’s goal is typically to drive customers somewhere – to our website, retail location, or event.
Pokémon GO is nailing it; combining location data with fun gaming challenges to drive Pokémon GO users out of their homes and into malls and battlegrounds, all for the satisfaction of capturing the next Pokémon.
2. REWARD SYSTEMS INCREASE ENGAGEMENT
Marketers have tapped into reward systems like discounts, coupons, or loyalty programs to boost customer engagement and increase sales forever.
Pokémon GO demonstrates how successful this approach is, especially when you make the experience fun and relevant to the user.
3. TAP INTO YOUR LOYAL FAN BASE
Pokémon GO embodies a common marketing lesson: existing customers are a businesses’ bread and butter, yet too often, we focus our resources and strategy on wooing new customers. This focus is expensive – Econsultancy’s found 82% of companies agree retention is in fact cheaper than acquisition.
Though Pokémon GO is capturing legions of brand new Pokémon trainers, its overwhelming success is no doubt due to a nostalgic fan base. Unlike the challenging go-to-market strategy of an unknown brand, Pokémon GO charged to the top of app lists by tapping into their remarkable 90’s fan following.
4. DON’T JUMP ON BANDWAGONS
Regardless of your industry, there will always be an exciting new technology, social platform, or trend everyone’s buzzing about. It’s easy to get caught up in the fervor, and shift focus from one buzzword to the next. Though marketers should always be innovating and exploring new opportunities, focusing your strategy around “the next big thing” is a recipe for failure.
Instead, implement technologies or tactics that fit your business needs or have a desirable application for your audience. Pokémon 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 their goals, instead of Pokémon GO trying to fit (and force) the technology.
HERE TO STAY?
We’ll have to wait and see whether the excitement surrounding Pokémon GO fizzles out, especially if and when they transition from in-app micro transactions to more traditional revenue streams. (Selling behavioral data to advertisers, for example, or allowing businesses to pay to become a destination.)
Regardless, Pokémon GO’s overnight success is a valuable lesson for marketers seeking new ways to maximize mobile technology and increase customer engagement.