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It seems strange that an app which hit the markets with almost no advertising campaign whatsoever would have something to teach us about marketing. Nevertheless, the extreme viral success of Pokemon Go demonstrates that there must be value in their model.

It’s the biggest mobile game in US history, with upwards of 26 million players. Its number of daily users increased from 7 million to 26 million in less than a week, with millions of downloads a day. The app clocks more daily usage time than Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. So how did Pokemon Go do it?

My team and I got together to discuss this new international craze. Together, we came up with a list of things that Niantic (the creators of the app) did perfectly — 7 Lessons on Marketing from Pokemon Go.

1. Bring Something New To the Table

One of the things that people love best about the app is its augmented reality format. It’s true that Niantic already had an augmented reality game called Ingress on the market when Pokemon Go released. But still, most people have never even heard of it — so this app might as well have been the first.

Your product should be something that customers haven’t seen before. Or, you should at least market it that way. Innovation in product and innovation in advertising — showing your customer a new way of thinking. If it’s cool enough — like augmented reality — people are going to buy it. Simple as that.

2. Utilize Your Brand

Even though Pokemon really hasn’t been in the public eye since the 1990s, when they made the new app, they didn’t discredit their brand. It’s not a powerhouse (not anymore), or a massive money-maker. But it still carries a high degree of name recognition, nostalgia, and appeal to kids.

Pokemon as a brand appeals to two generations — adults who grew up with it, and kids. Your brand may not inspire quite the loyalty and nostalgia of Pokemon — but don’t discount it. Past and current customers know you — they know what you stand for. Don’t forget that your brand is a useful tool.

3. Don’t Restrict Your Audience

It may be tempting to only advertise or market your product to a certain target market. But before you do that, consider the benefits of appealing to everyone. Pokemon Go is really more of a cultural phenomenon than a video game. It appears on the news, on every social media platform, in dinner conversation, and even on the streets.

There’s inherent value to the fact that everyone knows about Pokemon Go. No matter their opinion of it — the visibility is high, which means that when it comes time to monetize, the audience for Pokemon Go’s advertising will be enormous.

4. Create a Conversation

Pokemon Go is viral — there’s no other word for it. It took it 13 hours to reach the top of US App Store sales. The folks over at Niantic and Nintendo have paid nothing in advertising. So far, media coverage has been completely free, and nearly constant.

New, exciting, controversial — these qualities have gained international attention for Pokemon Go. I’m not saying you should create controversy — but you should create a conversation. Engage your customers, whether it’s in person or through social media. Get people talking about your product, or your company — word of mouth is valuable advertising.

5. Know Your Market

When your target market is everybody, your market awareness is insanely important. Niantic and Nintendo knew that young consumers are obsessed with playing the newest, coolest game on the market. They also knew that almost everyone has a smartphone. Add those two market observations together, and it only makes sense to launch their new product as an augmented reality mobile app.

Even if your target market is slightly more limited than everyone, this principle applies. Know who you’re selling to — and you know how to design and market your product.

 

Read more about how you can get to know your market with our free eBook

 

6. Bridge the Gap Between Online and Offline

The cool thing about augmented reality is that it’s both online and offline at once. Now, you don’t have to create a Pokemon Go style app to achieve this same effect. All you have to do is coordinate your offline and online business.

Engage with your customers over social media, like I said before. Make your company an effective seller cross-platform. Online engagement and connections are highly relevant in an offline world. You can monetize relationships your company makes through social media, and turn your online audience into a reliable customer base.

7. Don’t Rush Product Quality

Pokemon Go may be more of a cautionary tale than a teacher in this respect. It’s well-known how bumpy the app’s servers are, failing for millions of players every day. However, the app’s creators did something very wise in not releasing everywhere at once. Most likely, they knew that their servers would need work — so they gave themselves time to perfect them.

By releasing in the Australia and the US first, the app gave itself a sort of beta test phase. They have time to improve their product, all while generating ridiculous levels of buzz in countries where the app is not yet available. Don’t scramble to release your product. Make sure you have the best possible version — and then unleash it.


The long-term success of Pokemon Go remains to be seen. However, for an app that was released 2 weeks ago, it has done phenomenally. Tweet to me @jpalomino or leave a comment below to tell me what you think about the Pokemon Go craze.

Read more on CULTURAL FOOTPRINTS and INNOVATIVE MARKETING.

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