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Matthew Crehan

Pokémon Go! the next big marketing disruptor or just a gaming fad?

Pokémon Go! is a free, location-based augmented reality game created by Niantic in partnership with The Pokémon Company, Nintendo and perhaps most importantly Google.

Pokémon isn’t a new concept, debuting back in 1995 as a children’s cartoon which spun out into a popular series of video games and a card game that took schools worldwide by a storm.

But what makes Pokémon Go! stand out is that it seamlessly merges the digital and real world into one, as players set out on to the streets to “Catch ‘em all” and become “the best there ever was.”

Within 24 hours of launching in the US, Australia and New Zealand, it became the most downloaded game of all time across both Apple and Android stores, two weeks later and it had overtaken both Twitter and Tinder in terms of active daily users. It also benefits from an average player engagement time of 43 minutes a day, which is 13 minutes longer than the next most user engaged mobile application and 30 minutes more than Facebook Messenger.  Its launch also saw Nintendo’s share price grow by 50%.

Pokémon Go! the next big marketing disruptor or just a gaming fad?

But how is it affecting the marketing world?

All the above information is fantastic news if you’re a member of those companies involved with Pokémon Go! but let’s have a look at how it is already beginning to impact the marketing of other brands and what it has the potential to do in the future.

But first let’s just define a couple key terms:

Pokémon – These are the all-important pocket monsters that everyone is out trying to catch, currently there are 145 out on the streets, with more to be released as the game gets updated going forward.

Pokéstop – This is a real world location where players can stock up on key items like Poké Balls.

Pokémon Gym – Again these are real world locations usually significant monuments or buildings, where players can battle and capture the gym for their team.

Lure Module – This is an in-game purchase (but with a real financial cost) that can be placed at a location to continually attract wild Pokémon for up to 30 minutes.

 Millions head out onto the streets to play Pokémon Go!

Ok so some key terms defined let’s have a look at the impact on brand marketing so far:

Currently, Pokémon Go! is yet to release any form of paid advertising structure, though with the Japan release of the game a deal was made with McDonalds Japan so that every restaurant would be a Pokémon Gym.

John Hanke the CEO of Niantic has stated that paid advertising is coming and will be a major part of the platform going forward, and you can bet with Google’s involvement they will be looking at Pokémon Go! and how it can be best used as a marketing tool and not just a game for the masses.

But in the meantime, the sheer number of active daily users has meant that high streets have seen a massive rise in footfall as players seek out new Pokémon, gyms and Pokéstops and both shops and restaurants have been making the most of this Pokémon trainer traffic.

L’inizio’s Pizza bar in New York spent approximately $10 a day on lure modules and saw a 75% rise in business sales over the first week of Pokémon Go! being live. Other stores have been highlighting the fact they are Pokéstops across their social media channels or letting players know that certain Pokémon are nearby, and stores like Game have been providing special offers on portable battery chargers and other useful products so you don’t get caught out while trying to catch that rare Pokémon. Other stores have been providing free Wi-Fi , so players can keep on playing while out and about without racking up a fortune on their mobile data bill.


But with paid advertising in the plans going forward, just how much of an impact could Pokémon Go! have for brands?

As Niantic prepare to launch their paid advertising service for Pokémon Go! the advertising opportunities are pretty endless. First off there is the opportunity as McDonalds have done in Japan to sponsor your store or café as a gym or even a Pokéstop.

There is then the ability to sponsor special items at these locations to make your store stand out from other paid advertisers on the platform, as the Pokémon series had special Poké Balls which were more effective and so could be sponsored so as to be a limited resource at brand locations to draw in the crowds.

But the most interesting potential advertising opportunity, is to sponsor key Pokémon, imagine your brand being the only store in the country that a Pokémon can be found, and it’s already been proven that players will pretty much go anywhere to capture the Pokémon they are missing. And with Nintendo announcing last week that certain rare Pokémon such as Mew, Mewtwo and the three legendary birds Articuno, Zapdos and Motres have yet to be released, that opportunity feels like something Niantic have definitely already thought about.

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So, though it is still early days Pokémon Go! is definitely having an effect on the marketing landscape for any brands with Brick-and-Mortar stores, and only time will tell just how big an impact the game may have as paid advertising rolls out in the near future.   


If you have a business in the financial sector and would like to up your marketing game or receive some expert information about digital marketing for financial services, then get in touch with a member of our team!

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