If you are in the marketing or digital space, you’ve probably already seen numerous articles or highlights of the Pokémon Go phenomenon. If you’ve missed the barrage of news or happen to live in Canada (they are still awaiting their Pokémon Go experience), we feel obliged to fill you in on the details. I’d like to stress out of the gate that Pokémon Go isn’t the answer to every healthcare and marketing challenge and will actually become annoyingly referenced in every innovation discussion you have for the next 6 months. That being said, my curiosity and love for connecting the dots got the better of me.
So, if you aren’t familiar, the basic premise of this mobile-based game is to capture a wide variety of creatures called Pokémon by throwing Pokéballs. There’s battling, evolving, powers, etc., but the collecting aspect has always been at the core of Pokémon gameplay. The new app allows you to do the collecting in the real world, with virtual creatures popping up all over the globe. Leveraging GPS you can walk around the real world and discover hidden creatures, stop to acquire items and congregate with other players at “Pokémon gyms” to do battle between your little monsters.
Pokémon – the core brand – is so popular it’s in the Microsoft Word Dictionary. It doesn’t let you forget the accent on the “e.” Go ahead and try it out. Pokémon has been around for 20 years, and one of its strengths is its appeal to a wide range of demographics. Look around your office; I am willing to bet you can spot a secret Pokémon Go player. You may notice people randomly wandering around staring down at their cell phone, especially in strange locations, eventually stopping, and then swiping one finger up throwing a virtual ball. These may be the early adopters in your organization or the people with the most free time. I like to think they are doing active behavioral fieldwork.
5 Ways Pokémon Go Will Transform Brand Marketing
1). Data & Privacy
Pokémon Go tracks everything. It is actually closer to being a Personal Health Record than any system designed to date. It has full access to Google email account information, a “fault” it is working to fix. More than 4 million people have given very open access to their data, behavior, and systems. The security articles are already pouring in. It will be interesting to see if this spurs a greater dialogue on privacy and security or could be another bad example of a mass vulnerability. In today’s world, data is currency, and to play the game, people are paying in data, even if they don’t spend real $$$.
2). Positive Behavior
In just a few days more people have become physically active with this than with years of use with some fitness trackers and apps. To unlock certain aspects the game requires kilometers of walking, and it’s designed well enough to avoid giving credit for driving in your car! It provides rewards as you capture more rare creatures and achieve a variety of goals. People are motivated to join and to not be left out, to reach achievements first, and to connect with others. It’s interesting to note that walking more wasn’t a goal of the app, but a healthy side effect.
3). Familiarity Matters
The experience taps into some already common mobile behaviors. It feels a bit like Waze meets Pokémon. Simple enough for anyone to understand and start. People use GPS and maps almost every day. It allows people to share photos of their captures, another very familiar behavior. The core experience is very visual and doesn’t require very much to make it globally relevant. Understanding what people do naturally with digital tools is an important aspect to tap into when designing a new program.
4). Location, Location, Location
The game actually builds upon another virtual reality game by the same developer called Ingress that leveraged its Google map experience and players from around the world to tag unique locations. The activity is very localized and community based. Even local police departments have begun to highlight where not to go to capture Pokémon. It is an interesting bridge between global and hyper-local. People are joining a worldwide community but acting on a local scale. This behavior is very interesting to consider from a population health standpoint.
5). Transmedia Brand
Pokémon is a great example of a brand designed to live across media channels. Originally thought of as a card game, the reality is that the core brand and characters were crafted to work in TV, in video games, in print, as toys, and now as a truly mobile experience. The essence of the brand has always been pretty straightforward and simple, which helps it to travel across devices without adding complexity. When considering your brand experience, what’s the core essence that travels well?
It was impressive how quickly this fairly demanding game swept through popular culture in just a couple of days. This dynamic was especially noticeable if you have kids at home of a certain age! If you decide to try it out, I’d recommend being selective with what account, as I said the privacy and security issues are significant. Overall, I do think Pokémon Go will spark an appreciation for what digital tools can do from a global to local scale to support personal behavior change and community engagement.