Pokémon Go Isn’t Just a Fad – It’s A Paradigm Shift

Marketers of the future will remember July 2016 as the month the world changed; it’s the month Augmented Reality went from niche interest to worldwide phenomenon and all thanks to Pikachu.

By now you’re probably sick of hearing about Pokemon Go. In just a few days the global conversation went from Brexit to PokéStops, and if your office is anywhere near a public park you’ve negotiated swarms of smartphone-holding players checking the bushes for a Bulbasaur. Even we’re guilty of Go fever, as our sister site has not one, not two, but three articles on the damn game.

But there’s a good reason for the hype. To realise that we need to look beyond the game’s cutesy exterior and analyse how Pokémon as a phenomenon has changed the future for marketers; especially if you’re targeting Generation Y and below.

By now we can rattle off the milestones by heart: more downloads than Tinder, more daily usage than Instagram, more Google mentions than Brexit…

Analytics Firm Taykey also conducted a survey of the franchise’s online audience and found that the traditionally male-dominated franchise now demonstrated a near even split between male and female players. They also found that the audience was more evenly distributed between young people, with 25-34-year-olds and 18 – 24-year-olds emerging as the top two demographics.

However, these huge jumps in numbers aren’t just relevant to Pokémon. Niantic’s app has simply opened the floodgates for a wider adoption of Augmented Reality in technology. Expect to see an increase in similar apps trying to ride the wave of Niantic’s success, along with updates to the traditional ubiquitous platforms such as Facebook to take advantage of the feature.

So, how can brands and marketers capitalise on this? There have been a few interesting examples already. Small businesses are among the game’s biggest winners, with cafés and stores using the virtual Pokémon at their location to attract real-world customers.

McDonald’s have replicated this model on a larger scale; in Japan, they’re one of the game’s official sponsors, which means every McDonald’s branch is a Pokémon gym. That translates into a huge increase in footfall, and it’s no surprise that their stocks saw a sharp rise at the end of trading on the day of the Japanese launch.

On the lower end of the scale, we’ve also seen the typical social media tactic of linking your brand to current events. Amazon, for example, took the opportunity to market a portable phone battery to Go players wanting to extend their outdoor catching sessions.

However, most of these are short-term applications.

Long-term, the field of advertising will change completely. While some agencies might be tempted to simply stick some more intrusive ads into the virtual world, such an approach is short-sighted. The marketing industry’s real future lies in the technology’s ability to steer real-world foot traffic through virtual incentives.

Opening a new store? Place some virtual creatures there and some charging stations and watch the customers flock towards you. Hold special events on certain days to increase foot traffic on your town’s High Street, or lock monsters to a specific locality to encourage tourism (a small town in South Korea has already seen a big increase in tourism due to being the only place in the country where Pokémon can be caught). The future could very well see the likes of Tesco or Wal-Mart engaged in outrageous bidding wars with their competing supermarkets for the privilege of hosting a particularly rare Pokémon at their branches.

Next year the marketing world will be talking about how every business needs an AR strategy and debating the finer points of advertising through the medium of virtual critters as if it were the most natural thing on Earth. At NUBI Natives we always keep our eyes to the future. We offer adaptable content and data-focused plans to brands looking to connect with a millennial market that’s constantly evolving.

That’s because we understand how fast a strategy that’s working one day can become yesterday’s news the next.