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What all Marketers Can Learn from Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go’s wildly successful launch – seemingly out of nowhere – has much to teach marketers about consumers

Pokémon Go was released in the US on July 5, in other English-speaking countries in the days that followed, and is set to launch in Japan tomorrow.

The fact that Nintendo – the app’s maker and owner of the Pokémon brand – chose to launch it in the US and a host of other countries before a home-nation launch seems to be yet one more in a long line of good decisions. Within a week in the US, the app (pictured above) was more popular than Tinder and gunning for Snapchat and Google Maps.

Unsurprisingly, it became the dominant theme on Twitter. CEB social media analysis showed that Twitter discussion related to Pokémon was nearly twice what we’d expect the Super Bowl to get on game day.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Pokémon Go has taken over the hearts, minds and homes of consumers – quite literally in the case of one poor soul whose home in an old church was marked as a Pokémon gym in the app.

All over the country, people are getting out of the house and exercising. Children are logging so much outdoor time they’re asking their parents for sunscreen, and lucky dogs are getting a lot more miles in.

It’s Not Luck

But the runaway success of the Pokémon Go launch hasn’t come out of nowhere. Important and in some cases longstanding consumer truths are the ignition for its success. Truths that have, at their core, consumer values which marketers and brands can use in their own innovation, branding and communication efforts. Values like adventure, sharing and ambition, to name just a few.

There are three immediate observations that are important.

  1. For young consumers, augmented reality is already reality: Today’s teens have been looking at the world through a smartphone lens since they were riding in a car’s booster seat. So the technology that Pokémon Go represents isn’t new, it’s normal.

  2. Technology-enhanced, “gamified” fitness is key: The success of the app provides an important lesson for how “Gen We” (those born after 1995) and younger millennials manage their health — something today’s young people are comparatively passionate about. Sore leg jokes aside, Pokémon Go offers young consumers the kind of engaging tech-fueled fitness experience they’ve been waiting for.

  3. You’re never too young to be nostalgic: Children of the 2000s have an abiding love for Pokémon, arguably an entertainment property that could have had more made of it earlier. But there’s more happening here than Millennials who’ve always loved Pikachu.

    Today’s young consumers scratch their nostalgia itch with highly immersive IRL (or, “in real life”) experiences. And Pokémon Go offers a near-true IRL way to experience the game and anime series from which its characters came.

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