Your Buyers Are Basically Pokémon, So Level Up

Okay, I’ll be honest—I should have written this blog post three days ago, but every time I sat down to write about Pokémon GO, I would just play Pokémon GO.

I’ve been in over 20 hours of professional development training this week, dropping digital “incense” so I could attract and catch Rattata from my conference room seat. Last night, I decided that cruising by PokéStops would be more fulfilling than a first-date conversation. Not to mention, I used the phrase “OMG, a Jigglypuff!” in a non-ironic manner while I was out in public on Tuesday. And I’m not alone.

Pokémon GO–the new mobile app that lets you catch “pocket monsters” around you through GPS and augmented reality–has more daily engagement than Facebook Messenger and Instagram combined, according to data from SimilarWeb. It was installed on 10.8 percent of all Android devices in the U.S. as of July 11 (with those numbers rising to 15.1% and 16% in Australia and New Zealand, respectively). And, Pokémon GO has more users than Tinder, which means you are officially more likely to find your soulmate while hunting down Charizard than you are by swiping right.

With fictitious, (often) adorable creatures from a popular ‘90s card and video game, Pokémon GO has rapidly changed the game on engagement, and curious marketers everywhere are asking three things:

  1. What can I learn from the game that’s applicable to my day-to-day marketing activities?
  2. How can I take advantage of Pokémon GO in my marketing?
  3. Should I spend all these Zubat candies leveling up to a Golbat or just try to catch an evolved Pokémon in the wild?

Valid questions. I won’t pretend I have all the answers, but read on for a few of my insights and tips on how Pokémon GO fits into your marketing strategy:

1. Develop a Laser Focus

The stats above and my activities over the past week are proof enough that Pokémon GO is addicting, with users laser-focused on their objectives. I mean, why else would I prioritize catching these creatures over writing this blog?

For your marketing campaigns, use the same type of focus to assess your goals, establish a set of metrics to measure them by, and identify which activities will help you achieve them. Why purchase an ad in a business publication when its readership doesn’t consist of your target audience? Why pour all of your money into pricey acquisition campaigns when you know that retention is your team’s top priority at the moment? Why acquire new Pokémon when you should really be focusing on leveling up the ones you have so you can fight and take over a gym?

2. Incentivize and Provide Value to Your Buyers

As a Pokémon GO player, I’m attracted to PokéStops, places where you can load up on sweet virtual Pokémon swag that will help you in the game. The draw of these places is so strong that on my lunch break Monday, I swung by nearby the local church just to load up on Poké Balls and potions.

To get your potential and current customers to interact with your brand, you need to provide them with incentives to do so. This can be as basic as providing engaging content that adds value to their business or lives or more complex, like customer advocacy programs. The key is to keep your audience in mind first understand how you can help them–things like revenue will follow.

At a practical level, if your business is lucky enough to be labelled as a PokéStop in the game, I recommend capitalizing on that. We’ve seen businesses go in a few different directions with this:


Dairy Queen Pokemon

And, positive:

Art Institute of Chicago Pokemon

This can go both ways–some diehard players will fork out cash in order to reap Pokémon GO rewards, while others may just move onto the next PokéStop. So, it might be a good idea to welcome Pokémon GO players into your business with open arms, rather than drive them away. It’s likely that you’ll still benefit from the foot traffic, especially if you come up with some creative ads.

Even if your business isn’t a PokéStop, there are four ways you can still get your foot in the game:

  • Ads will be available in the app very soon in the form of sponsored locations, according to TechCrunch.
  • You can drop an in-app “Lure Module,” which will attract Pokémon to your business and make them accessible to others for 30 minutes. It’s like a flash sale…with cartoon animals. While the example below shows a storefront and the potential for retail locations, for B2B marketers, you can consider adding a Lure Model to your location at a tradeshow to generate leads.

Pokemon Go Lure

  • Find out what kind of Pokémon can be found around your business and let people know, just like this business below did. The ultimate goal of Pokémon is to catch as many as you can (gotta catch ’em all!), so it’s likely to lure in players who haven’t caught that character yet or are trying to catch more of it trade in for candy and evolve their existing one.

Vulpix Gastly Sign

  • Reward players with some free perks. Remember, it’s not about what you gain from acquiring a new customer–it’s about their lifetime value, which includes repeat business and recommendations to their networks. 61% of consumers say they’d tell their friend and family about a positive experience and 27% reported they’d sign up for a loyalty program, according to a Teradata survey.

My Family

3. Be Contextually Relevant

You don’t honestly think you can catch Articuno during a Southern California summer, do you? The folks over at Niantic, the makers of Pokémon GO, have done a decent job of making Pokémon appear in environments that reflect their origin (sea creatures by bodies of water, plant creatures near parks, etc.).

Marketers should follow suit–there’s no use advertising ice cream in the middle of a Scandinavian winter. Similarly, if your target audience is millennials, then yes—you should absolutely consider working Pokémon into some fun marketing copy. The average age of the user is in the late 20s, meaning it’s a mecca for hard-to-catch millennial buyers.

Case in point: Just yesterday, I fell for opening the below email because I was intrigued by what strategies could possibly be used to capture Pokémon on a dance floor (spoiler alert: there were no tips).

Monarch Email

Now Go Catch ‘Em All!

A week from now, maybe everyone will have stopped playing Pokémon GO. Perhaps we all will have moved on with our lives and jumped onto the next bandwagon. It’s hard to know, which means if you want to jump on this trend–act FAST, as fast as you would going after a CP 142 Raticate.

For now, enjoy this rare chance to integrate adorable cartoon creatures into your marketing and focus on what insights you can glean from what may be the most viral game of all-time. And if all else fails, run around throwing red and white Poké Balls at people. It’ll definitely get you some attention.

Are you a fellow Pokémon Go player? What else have you learned from the game that you can apply to your own marketing strategy? Share your ideas in the comments below!