July 22nd 2016

Pokemon Go: How it Became a Success.

Posted by Will Shadbolt

Everyone knows Pokemon. And most people have some sort of emotional connection to the series. But a lot of old fans have drifted away from the series…until now. After less than a month, Pokemon Go is already at the top of the Apple App Store chart. For those that don't know, the latest Pokemon iteration allows players to walk around the real world, capture Pokemon, and level them up. Certain predetermined locations are gyms and Pokestops where players can battle or get supplies, respectively. Walking or driving through neighborhoods, it's difficult to miss groups of all ages walking around with their eyes glued to their screen. At this point, calling the game a "viral hit" seems like an understatement. Surprisingly, this was achieved with only a small marketing effort.

Being part of a multi-million and multi-industry franchise does help, but for the most part news about the game spread by means of social media. Niantic, the company that made the game, tweeted when users in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand could download Pokemon Go, and retweeted a couple of others mentioning the game, but beyond that, they have not done much on Twitter to promote it. Nintendo of America has retweeted one announcement but nothing else. Tracking apps report that there has been no big push for it on app-installation ads on other games or the internet and that not a single TV spot for the app has run. When asked about the future, both Pokemon Co. and Nintendo did not comment. And yet, despite this, the game has surged in popularity and Nintendo stocks have risen by 14%.

So how did this humongous success occur? Some have come up with five aspects that help make something a hit. First is how easy it is to play. If you have a smartphone, you have everything you need to play Pokemon Go. No consoles or equipment is needed, unlike other big videogames. The number of players this generates in turn provides visibility. Conspicuous groups walk around in public looking at their phones. Plus, such seemingly odd behavior is distinctive. When you see a group like that, you know what they're doing. This social aspect of going around with friends also boosts its popularity: it's a fun way to hang out. That it keeps churning out headline-worthy articles is also a factor. Finally, and most importantly, players have an emotional connection to the game. By incorporating the original 150 Pokemon, even the oldest fans who have lost interest in the franchise are encouraged to try it out and post about it on social media. 

There's been a lot of talk about what's next for the game—More Pokemon? Battles between trainers? Trading?—but it looks like the next big addition to the game will be advertising. Last week, Niantic put up a request form for making specific locations into gyms or Pokestops…and took it down soon after. Now the company is unveiling sponsored gyms. 3,000 McDonald's in Japan will be turned into gyms. It is still to early to see what effects this will have, but other big brands such as Hot Topic and Gamestop, both popular with the game's fans, have been listed as other possibilities, although there is no word yet on bringing sponsored gyms to the U.S. While some are predicting Pokemon Go will turn into a fad that will be old news by summer's end, others state that the emotional connection will keep people hooked while Niantic continues to smooth out issues. 

And if you're looking for people to have a similar connection with your company, look no further than Giovatto Advertising. We specialize in branding and positioning development to not only make your vision of your business a reality, but also get consumers involved with it on more than just a purchasing level. In addition, we also have lots of experience with mobile marketing, an important part of any campaign in an age where everyone stares at their phone. Call Giovatto today and we'll get started on your next advertising project.

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