Pokémon GO – after the hype, the marketing knowledge is here to stay

Pokemon Go hype

November 3, 2016

“I’ve not read anything about Pokémon GO in ages,” I said to a friend via Facebook last week. “Is no one playing it anymore?” The answer – despite the suggestion one from commenter that most players have since been hit by cars whilst following the app – is YES, they are. Plenty of people are still playing. Loads, in fact.

The difference is that people have stopped writing and posting so much about it – at least not visibly in the mainstream (social) media. Rather than flooding our timelines and media feeds with Pokémon news, experienced players have taken to direct communication on forums, in person or via YouTube tutorials. We amateurs have been left behind! For the top players, it’s now all about the strongest and most powerful Pokémon, tactics and successful breeding. Yes, breeding. Players breed eggs in order to hatch rare Pokémon which could give them an advantage in later arena battles. But back to our original question – even five weeks on, the Pokémon GO hype has not subsided.

One in three players are over 35

According to a recent YouGov survey, of the 6.1 million people who initially downloaded the app in Great Britain, an impressive 5.3 million are still playing – that’s 87%. The figures are even starker in Germany where 93% of the original 7.7 million users are still playing. In both countries, as might be expected, two in three users are aged 18-24 but, interestingly, fully a third are over 35.

“This is key from a marketing perspective: the potential target market is clearly not as limited as first thought.”

The survey also highlighted other interesting findings. Pokémon GO users are apparently more likely to spend money on fashion accessories and other things that they don’t necessarily need and also go to the cinema more than average. When the market exhibits such characteristics, it’s not surprising that advertisers are still looking to profit from the game.

Marketing in practice

Since the app launched in the summer, there has been no shortage of businesses who have looked to entice Pokémon trainers into their shops with special offers. Charities and good causes have also been profiting, with one blood donation clinic in northern Germany reporting a boost in volunteers after word spread that certain rare Pokémon could be caught whilst waiting to giving blood.

City marketing agencies have also recognised the potential of the app. Instead of getting incensed at the number of people walking around blindly whilst staring at their phones, some cities have introduced tours specifically for these groups! In Düsseldorf, for example, an historic tram took visitors on a three-hour tour of the city, including regular stops at PokéStops and areas with a high number of Pokémon.

McDonald´s marketing coup

McDonald’s has taken its Pokémon GO marketing a step further. When the game launched in Japan, the fast-food giant purchased a Pokéstop for each of its 3,000 branches in the country, as well as 400 arenas. These so-called ‘sponsored places’ have extremely lucrative and are understandably attractive for businesses, and McDonald’s is leading the way. The enormous potential of such marketing measures are slowly becoming clear, not just for businesses looking to advertise but for app developer Niantic as well. Indeed, Pokémon GO has already made it into the Guinness Book of Records with “Most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month.”

What can we learn?

But aside from Pokéstops in shops and discounts of every kind, the success of Pokémon GO also provides important clues as to how the marketing industry could be set to develop in future.

The days in which successful online games were only played at home in front of the computer by gamers who rarely saw the light of day are over. Pokémon GO takes places outside in the real world and is successful despite – or rather because – of this. The rapid increase in mobile internet usage has paved the way as people’s reluctance to go online outside of their own Wi-Fi recedes. Nowadays, mobile internet is indispensable for one in four users – an important factor for future marketing campaigns.
Another key aspect are of course in-app purchases. Hard work and patience are the keys to success in Pokémon GO – but spending so-called Pokécoins also helps. Players can purchase Pokéballs to catch the monsters and smoke to attract them as well as various other helpful products. So-called Lure Modules can also be purchased for 100 Pokécoins – approximately 99 cents.

“Studies have shown that around 20% of Pokémon GO players spend money in order to progress.”

Users’ willingness to spend “real money” inside an app is of great interest to developers and marketers who will surely look to expand on this aspect.

A similar trend can also be observed in augmented reality technology – which has benefitted from the advances made by Pokémon GO. By integrating the user’s real environment into a virtual campaign, whole new avenues are opened up for advertisers whereby they can interact with customers in surprising, exciting and personal new ways.

Users are becoming increasingly experienced and more willing to afford good marketing campaigns attention and interest. Of course, augmented reality is nothing new but it has always suffered from a lack of trust on the part of users. Thanks to Pokémon GO, that acceptance and knowledge is now there and a substantial hurdle has been overcome.
And what about data protection? Are users safe when consuming via augmented reality apps? When Pokémon GO first arrived in app stores, the media were quick to suggest that personal data was inevitably being collected. Not that this deterred most users from downloading and playing the app and simultaneously producing a whole new stockpile of user information, of which geo data is likely to be the most interesting. Should Pokémon GO data become freely available for purchase by businesses, we can envisage the implementation of a range of activities at locations which users are statistically proven to frequent.

After the hype – what now?

Pokémon GO is not just a passing craze which will disappear as quickly as it arrived. The interest remains – but even when mainstream enjoyment of the game itself begins to wane, the lessons the app has taught us about user behaviour and player interests will be just as valuable. Whether in the further development of augmented reality or the willingness to conduct transactions in-game, marketers stand to benefit from the experience of Pokémon GO for years to come.

Author Barbara Kawa

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