22 Jul 2016

PR lessons from Pokemon Go

Paula Munteanu – Intern at Spreckley

Pokemon Go has taken off like wildfire. It’s free, it has incorporated augmented reality and it brings like-minded nostalgic fans together. There are many PR lessons we can learn from its success. Its developers claim they never really bothered about marketing. And that might be true. Did you see any pop-up ads or banners advertising it? Not really.

The augmented reality (AR) game, a brainchild of Niantic Labs, has been on the market for over two weeks now, but in the US only it has already lured in 7.5 million users. That’s double the user base of Tinder. In addition, its rapid rise has seen it surpass Twitter in popularity. Reaching Facebook’s 1.51 billion users might be its next milestone.

But what was it that struck a chord with so many people?

Pokemon Go is neither your conventional unicorn nor an accidental success. If it is still yet to ‘catch ‘em all’ in terms of monetisation, the app has been nonetheless carefully articulated, pulling the right strings to appeal to mobile-bound, nostalgic millennials.

1. Right time, right place

Perspicacious brands, SMEs and local companies are a jump on the bandwagon away from having revenues go through the roof. In-app features, such as luring Pokemon to your location, mean any local business with a physical location can tempt potential customers with the promise of wild Pokemon and maybe a fresh pizza or cup of coffee.

But with an uncertain product lifecycle, businesses need to really carpe diem.

Much like PR, it is all about getting the right content (or brands) in front of the right audience at the right time.

2. Sentimentality sells

Good branding makes the real difference. The technology used by Pokemon Go is far from new. It has been used in another mobile game, Ingress, for years. But did you hear about it at all? Chances are you didn’t. When it comes to Pokemon Go, the brand itself has been around for more than 20 years. And those who were 10 years old back in 1996 when it was released now have grown into 30-year-old adults with huge buying power.

3. Word-of-mouth is a strong tool

When a PR team is assigned a new task, depending on the scenario, they might advise actively publishing on social media, sending out regular newsletters, creating premium content, launching a blog or a mix of any of these things.

But what Pokemon Go has taught us is that word-of-mouth is sometimes so much more effective. Social proof is everything nowadays, and those who buy products that haven’t been reviewed yet are believed to be indulging in risky behaviour. Was seeing a bunch of people zombie-walking in the park trying to catch a rare Jigglypuff a good enough guarantee of fun? Probably yes, since 10 million people have downloaded the game.

Surely there is much more to learn from this app. Experts argue it won’t stick around for a long time and Niantic will struggle to monetise it without pushing away the users. For now, AR, Pokemon Go and everything that falls in between is worth keeping an eye on.