Pokemon GO: The Social and Cultural Phenomenon Changing the Face of Marketing

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard mention of Pokemon Go by this point. Even if you’ve wanted nothing to do with it, somebody’s undoubtedly bumped into you while playing or begged you to join in on their quest. And if you run a business, this is a quest you may not want to pass up.

Pokemon has taken over the social lives of children, teens and adults alike. It’s unlike any other game out there at the moment because of aspects like augmented reality and geocaching, but this is also what makes it so enticing for marketers and businesses.

The game, which comes in the form of a free downloadable app for your smartphone, combines social interaction with local and mobile marketing, a concept coveted by small businesses and household brands alike. Essentially, the game forces players to go out and explore their surroundings, a novel idea considering most social media and technology are associated with a more sedentary lifestyle.

The game pins real locations to virtual PokeStops and Gyms, where you can refuel and train your Pokemon for multiplayer battle. If your business was lucky enough to be designated as one of these stops, you’ve no doubt seen a huge increase in foot traffic, but it won’t always be that easy. Soon, businesses will have the chance to essentially “pay to play” by buying PokeStop real estate as plans for “sponsored locations” are rolled out. This will certainly come at a cost, but for some businesses the payoff could be well worth it.

So what lessons can marketers learn from the game that now has more users than Twitter? Businesses need to look for ways to combine their marketing efforts with personal, face to face interactions. The bonus? The more you interact with people on an interpersonal level, the more likely you are to benefit from “buzz” marketing. If people like your product or service, they’re more likely to want to tell their friends about their experience or share it on social media after having a positive interaction with another human being--what a concept!

Another reason the creators of the Pokemon Go experience were successfully able to tap into a multigenerational, multicultural global market is largely due to this one tactic: nostalgia. The Pokemon franchise has come in contact with countless people since it began over 20 years ago. Even if your company is a recent startup or you’re in the business of selling vacuums, find a way to speak to your audience at an emotional level. Tell a story, share an image, play a familiar song. We all like to be reminded of the good old days every once in awhile.

People also tend to feel good when they’re rewarded. You know you wouldn’t buy as many pizzas if Papa John’s didn’t promise to give you a free pie when you’ve reached 25 reward points. Pokemon Go has refined the concept of a reward system, so why shouldn’t you benefit too? Reward people for visiting your site, trying your product, sharing their experience online or downloading your app. If you offer the benefits, you’ll also reap the rewards.

Pokemon Go has given us insight into so much of what’s to come in the worlds of technology and social interaction, showing us that just maybe these worlds don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We’ve seen what happens when we blur the lines between reality and virtual reality, and it’s exciting. For digital marketers, the future is now, and it’s time to act.