The 3 lessons we learned from playing Pokémon Go

It’s back. The game that was first introduced in the 90s (and that you haven’t heard about since) is now the thing that everyone – your kids, your co-workers, and even your boss – is talking about. Pokémon has evolved from Gameboy to trading cards to a mobile app that has been downloaded more than 7.5 million times in just one week.

The concept is the same as it was 20 years ago (gotta catch ‘em all) but this time with the help of Augmented Reality and Google Map technology to make it feel like you are playing the game in real life. Yes. There are Pokémon now in your kitchen, in your client meetings, and even at your wedding.

So, in typical media fashion, the wave of popularity has been accompanied by a bandwagon of hot takes.

pokemon go pic 1

Don’t fret, we’re not here to pitch you on our Pokémon Go strategy (nor are we “scrambling” to form one). We are, however, prepared to present you with three straight faced lessons from Pokémon Go that you can apply to your outreach online:

Lesson #1: Build success on your audience’s existing behaviors

The game’s success has been almost without precedent. The Verge reports that:

[Nintendo’s] share price rose 24.52 percent on Monday to ¥20,260 ($193) — its highest one-day surge since 1983, adding $7.5 billion to the firm’s market value. The game has topped app download charts in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, and according to some market researchers, has already been installed on 5 percent of all Android smartphones in America.

But there are plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t be surprised by the success of Pokémon Go. The game mimics a number of behaviors we already know to be popular online, knitting them together into a strange tapestry of recognizable elements. The easily screengrabbed creatures appearing in your living room is an out-there take on Snapchat filters, the collection and cataloguing of things has long been a behavior demonstrated through sites like Pinterest and brought into the world of games by cult successes like Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector. Even the physical treasure hunt element has long been enjoyed by the Geocaching community.

To say that the app’s success is derived from mimicking online behaviors is not a criticism, and rather a lesson. Building a new behavior is hard, as is convincing people to take an action they aren’t used to online. If you’re looking to be successful in your outreach then start by asking what works already.

Lesson #2: People are self-absorbed – keep it personal and relevant

Screenshots of Pokémon Go are everywhere. They are in text messages, on your newsfeeds, and in the media. Why? Because the game is about as relevant you can get, allowing people to play the game, literally, in their own lives.

pokemon go pic2

Even in the 90s, Pokémon was a customizable experience with no same team and a personal connection to the creatures you raised from infancy. Pokémon Go has brought a similar experience to the mobile app, but now with Google Maps and Augmented Reality, we take it a step further and make it even more unique. For example, your apartment building is now a gym on Pokémon Go and the type of Pokémon you can catch change based on your location and the time of day.

We have seen this level of personalization before – Snapchat filters come and go when you switch locations, social media ads are pushed in your newsfeed based on what’s in your shopping cart on another website. The bottom line is that people want, and are used to, content tailored to their interests and behaviors. While we are not recommending that every brand try to use AR to engage their target audiences, you should make sure your message is relevant and give users the opportunity to connect with your brand.

Lesson #3: It’s not just about how to make an impact online anymore

If you’ve been out and about in the last few days you may have come across a sight like this:

pokemon pic screengrab

This is a “lure party.” A group of Pokémon Go users who have gathered together in a public spot to try and get more of the creatures to appear.

While this may seem like new ground for a game, the public aspect of Pokémon Go is not a revolution but a next step in how our digital lives touch the real world. The speed at which mobile usage has spread has created numerous opportunities to interact with the environment around us – not only taking our “real” lives online, but bringing our online lives into the real world. From checking-in to your favorite places on Swarm, to using dating apps to meet people on-the-go, our world is increasingly experienced as a hybrid between “real” and digital.

Companies and organizations have long seen the potential of taking their real world events online – like Facebook Live and Periscope to broadcast a rally or real world visual cues like an “I Voted” sticker that beg to be Instagrammed. In the coming years, the savviest will look for opportunities to follow in Pokémon Go’s footsteps and bring the online world into the real.




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