5 Things Pokémon Go Taught Me About The Future Of Marketing

Madelyn Bayer

In case you haven’t been outside lately, there is a game taking over the millennial world right now – it’s called Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go is a mobile app that you can download for iOS or Android. It’s free to download and play, but you have the option to use real money to buy in-game currency called PokéCoins. PokéCoins are used to purchase Pokéballs, the in-game item you need to catch Pokémon. The game uses your phone’s GPS to obtain your real-world location and augmented reality to bring up Pokémon characters on your screen, placing them on top of what you see in front of you. You—the digital you—can be customised with clothing, a faction (a “team” of players you can join), and other options, and you level up as you play.

On the surface, it’s a fun mobile game whose popularity is as intriguing as it is entertaining, but the superficial fun of the app has led to some real results: Developer Nintendo’s valuation has increased by an estimated $7.5 billion thanks to the game.

With results like that, this app is more than just a game, but a possible whole new realm of digital marketing. I started to research some of the key learnings from Pokémon go from a marketing perspective.

  1. Keep it small and simple. Gone are the days of needing to invest in large ad campaigns and advertising budgets. How many ads did we see leading up to the Pokémon Go launch? Very few. Pokémon Go didn’t invest much into advertising because it didn’t need it – either the ad executives in charge knew that the success of the app would be dependent on the marketing and viral factors listed here, or they didn’t expect the app to be a breakout hit. Regardless, the bottom line is that you don’t need a massive advertising budget to be a great marketer; you just need to be able to connect with people. Simplicity is key: Well-designed websites, e-commerce platforms, apps, and products should welcome new users and make it extremely easy for all to get involved (a lesson learned from breakout social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat).
  1. Have an agile digital platform. If you don’t have an agile digital marketing platform, you will miss the boat. This lesson has been proven time and time again in today’s digital world. The marketing game changes faster than most brands can keep up with – but being able to react quickly to trends like this is essential. Failing fast, minimum viable product, and agile: These are fast becoming key phrases in marketing teams’ vocabulary. Whether you are launching a social campaign, a consumer app, or a large-scale marketing operation, you must be able to stand it up quickly, test it, iterate on it, and send it out quickly.
  1. Loyalty is everything. If you want to increase customer loyalty, you must reward your users for continuing to invest in your product. Pokémon Go players get bonuses and incentives for levelling up, taking on gyms, catching new Pokémon, and even walking. The thrill of finding a rare Pokémon or winning an intense battle is enough to keep users yearning for more, even through the less-active parts of the game. There are definite rewards for continued investment, and that’s what keeps users playing—sometimes at the expense of productivity. When I think of the apps I know and love, this feature is nothing new, but it is very important. Gamification and loyalty are what keep me checking in on the highly addictive Air New Zealand app, for example, tuning in each Tuesday to watch the reverse auctions grab flight seats. Creating an individualised offering to every consumer is a hot trend for retailers right now, and it may also be part of the lessons learned from Pokémon Go.
  1. Appeal to the new generation of augmented reality and virtual-reality natives. Just as Gen Y are considered digital natives because they grew up with Internet access, the emerging gen Z will be known as AR and VR natives – what feels new to us now will be the new normal for kids growing up today. That’s not to say every brand should jump on the AR or VR bandwagon. But learn from what this game has taught us: Why is this game taking over the world? What insights can be adapted to generate positive brand engagement? We have evolved past the age of disruptive placement and are now in an era of behavioral targeting. One of the biggest challenges retailers face is knowing where their customers are at any given point in time. How do they reward their customers at the point of sale? Could the next wave of retail disruption be the gamification of shopping in a virtual reality?
  1. Privacy vs. Personalisation. That old chestnut. According to the SAP New Zealand Digital Experience Report 2016, New Zealanders rated having relevant offers without infringing on privacy amongst the highest consumer experience attributes when considering importance to digital experience satisfaction. This is interesting considering the backlash concerning the data Niantic is actively collecting on Pokémon Go users. It seems this hasn’t deterred users too much; the explanation for this may lie further in the New Zealand Digital Experience report research.

Arguably, Pokémon Go ticks all the boxes when we look at the consumer-rated digital experience attributes listed below – though there may be one exception if we consider recent user safety horror stories that are starting to come out.

So what has all this taught us? It links back to the report: The better the digital experience – defined by the above attributes – the happier consumers are to give up their data. The graphs below show consumers’ willingness to give up certain personal information, depending on whether or not they have a satisfactory digital experience. As we all know, data, or information, is the currency of the future, and lessons like these raise important takeaways for all digital marketers looking to gain real consumer insights and preferences.

If you haven’t already given Pokémon Go a go, see what all the fuss is about. Whether the game is a passing fad or the newest trend of digital marketing is yet to be determined, but it offers some interesting thoughts to consider before you launch your next campaign to consumers.

For more insight on where marketing is headed, see MarTech: The Future Of Digital Marketing.


Madelyn Bayer

About Madelyn Bayer

In my role as an Industry Value Associate at SAP Australia and New Zealand, I help organisations calculate and realise the value that new systems and technology will have on their operations. My role covers industries spanning utilities, public sector, consumer products and retail with a specific focus around customer engagement and commerce solutions and through this role I have developed a strong understanding of mega trends, cloud computing, enterprise software, the networked economy, Internet of Things, millennials and digital consumers. I am particularly passionate about creating sustainable solutions to solving world problems through technology.