For better or worse, marketers must recognize and adapt to trends.
In the “better” cases, the recognition of trends leads to relevant, insightful, useful, and/or informative marketing efforts that benefit those who are on the receiving end of said marketing efforts. For the worse, you get flashy, shallow things like, “X is the New Y,” or “10 Tips to Win Over Millennial Decision Makers with Emojis and Bitcoins.”
Enter the hottest new trend: Pokémon GO.
Since its launch on July 7th, Pokémon GO has quickly become the mobile app with the most daily active users to date. Indeed, as TechCrunch reports, it has more daily users than Twitter and 5.92 percent of all United States-based android OS users now play the game.
Reports also show that Pokémon GO is changing behaviors overnight. Mashable reports that players who are more introverted or socially anxious find relief and comfort in being outside and active in public places when playing the game, for example. (Editor’s Note: People are also walking off cliffs because of it, apparently.)
What should marketers do about Pokémon GO?
Immediately, the best bet is to simply observe and understand what’s really happening and where the actual value for Pokémon GO users exists.
To begin with, the primary source of revenue for Niantic, the game’s maker, is in-app purchases that support expanded game-play. When a player runs out of Pokéballs, which are used to catch the virtual-reality creatures that pop up in the game, he or she can either find a “Poké Stop” and get some for free, or purchase them in bulk from Niantic. Of course, players who buy Pokéballs have a much smoother game experience than those who don’t, so there’s a stable source of revenue there.
Meanwhile, however, Poké Stops attract a lot of traffic from players who do not want to pay to play. Coincidentally, this behavior is driving increased to traffic business locations that are lucky enough to be mapped, by chance, as Poké Stops. However, reports are emerging that the game is allowing locations to apply for Poké Stop status, thereby giving businesses an opportunity to use the natural game-play to attract foot traffic through a non-intrusive marketing effort.
What’s cool is that, by a business doing something like this, they are not interrupting or hijacking Pokémon GO. Instead, they provide players with something players value, and, in return, they benefit from these efforts.
There are also instances where communities are trying to come up with useful and interesting content around Pokémon GO. In Boston, for example, a comprehensive, crowd-sourced map has been created to help local players pinpoint places where they can catch specific Pokémon. If a brand were to provide such a resource or facilitate such a community, again, the participation in the trend would be beneficial for both users and marketers.
Make it fun
Marketing opportunities aside, it’s important to note that this is just a fun game.
I loved playing the pixelated old Nintendo versions in my younger days (and may or may not still play today), but the brand has an appeal to a wide range of age groups. I’ve seen just as many adults playing the game as children, and for the most part, it’s been a guilty pleasure that hasn’t come with very much guilt. (Well, maybe if you’re playing the game at work, a little guilt is warranted, but this is also another thing worth talking about at the office water cooler!)
Perhaps the Pokémon brand has helped to make the app a much more viral phenomenon than any previous augmented reality games, but the fun factor can’t be discounted. Just try to say “Jigglypuff” or“Pikachu” whilst maintaining a frown!
Therein might lie the real lesson (and opportunity) of Pokémon GO: When a trend comes along, marketers need to figure out how to be part of the fun.