If there’s one thing the makers of Pokémon do well, it’s to create a craze. Back in the late 1990s, Pokémon trading cards caused a frenzy among children and adults, as people waited in line to get their hands on a pack of the latest release, which might or might not contain the cards they were after.
Now, Pokémon is back again. This time, it is taking the world by storm in the form of an augmented reality game for smartphones. Instead of catching Pokémon cards, people are chasing the monsters all over town, catching them using the cameras on their phones.
To say that the game is a hit would be an understatement. First released in the US in early July, it climbed to the top of the sales charts in just 13 hours. So far, more than 75 million people have installed it and Forbes reported that the average user spends 75 minutes per day playing it. Yahoo News called the app a cultural phenomenon and compared it to the Dutch Tulipmania of the 17th century, when demand for certain tulip bulbs caused the price to skyrocket.
What does Pokémon Go have to teach marketers? A lot, as it turns out.
Customize the Message
One of the features of Pokémon Go is the ability to customize the avatar a person uses when playing. Initially, a player could only customize their avatar at the beginning of the game, picking the clothing, physical features, and gender. An update to the app now allows people to customize and change their avatar whenever they want.
Marketers also need to learn to customize and update the messages they send to customers, who grow and change as they move through life. Your customers also aren’t all the same person, and want you to recognize what makes them unique. Customization is particularly important to millennials, as this article in Entrepreneur points out.
How can you customize the message to certain customers? Offer appreciation and recognition events, personalize any emails or other communications you send to them and give them a choice when it comes to how they communicate with you or you with them.
What’s Old is New
Nostalgia is one of the things driving the success of Pokémon Go. Many of the 20 and 30 somethings playing the game now remember collecting the cards or playing the Gameboy games in the 1990s.
Nostalgia can also be a useful tool for marketers. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014 suggested that people are more willing to open their wallets when they feel nostalgic. If a product or service triggers a memory of a bygone time, people will spend so that they feel as if they are reliving that time.
Right now, the 1990s are a ripe for the picking when it comes to nostalgia marketing. Just as Pokémon is having its 15 minutes of fame, so, too, are Calvin Klein’s iconic jeans, Crispy M&M’s, and brown lipstick.
Keep it Simple
Here’s another reason Pokémon Go is doing so well: It’s easy to learn and play. You don’t need to have played the video games or card games that preceded the app, or spent hours reading a list of instructions. You simply download the app and start playing. It’s simple enough that you can figure it out as you go along.
Keeping it simple is one of the most important things for marketers to remember. If people can’t clearly spot your message or get what your brand’s story is at a glance, they aren’t going to stick around long enough to figure out if what you’re offering is worth their while.
Establish a Sense of Community
One of the features that makes Pokémon Go more unique than other app-based games is that it, for the most part, has players go out and about to capture the monsters. Players also have a chance to work together to find and catch the Pokémon, at Pokéstops and Poké gyms. Large group Pokémon hunts have taken place in Spain, Australia, and other locations.
The game has proven to be a conversation starter, even among people who aren’t playing it. For example, players at a local coffee shop or bar have been known to strike up conversations with other customers about how the game works or about how many Pokémon they’ve caught.
A marketing strategy that has community at its center not only helps people connect over a shared interest, but also helps increase word-of-mouth shares. Much of Pokémon’s success is due to people who fondly remember the game or who never stopped playing other versions of Pokémon. When the app was released, those people got it, told their friends and shared their experiences on social media and the web until a significant buzz was established.
Who knows how long the Pokémon Go bubble will last? But, its wild success over the past few weeks has been enough to show marketers that some techniques never go out of style.