Pokemon Go: A Marketing Case Study on How to Create Viral Content
Pop Quiz: What has more daily active users?
- Pokemon GO
If you answered Pokemon GO, you are 100% correct. (Ok so not officially bigger than Twitter but will be soon.)
Never-the-less, a game that launched about a week ago is about to beat out one of the largest social networks of all time. Pokemon Go has become a global phenomenon, to say the least. It is the perfect example of a good product going viral and will forever be looked at as a case study for success.
I believe if we dissect Pokemon Go we can build a framework of what to do in an app development and marketing.
The first thing we need to do when dissecting Pokemon Go is to look at exactly what it is. For one of you few people who are not addicted to this game yet, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality video game.
Pokemon Go is a game where you find and collect little creatures called Pokemon. This is done using your phone’s internal GPS, Camera, and some simple game mechanics.
Using the GPS location on your phone, Pokemon go tracks where you walk. If you are near water you have the opportunity to find water-Pokemon. In the desert, you can find desert-Pokemon. Whenever you run across one, you can utilize your phone camera to search and find Pokemon near you. From there, simply throw your Pokeball and catch them. That is the essence of the game, and pretty much describes 95% of it.
Stick to Your Essence
Pokemon Go does one thing really well. It allows you to find and capture Pokemon. It doesn’t have any additional features that could possibly make it clunky. There aren’t any leaderboards, no chat system, no mini games. It just does one thing really really well—catching Pokemon.
Most apps and businesses try to be everything. This is a huge fail because the market doesn’t want or need one app for everything. As I sit here in Starbucks writing on my Google Chromebook (which only uses google documents and nothing else) writing in Google Docs. I can easily see how doing one thing well, works time and again. Google docs, Google Chromebooks and Starbucks are a great example of companies and products doing one thing really well.
Pokemon Go didn’t try to add all the features of the Pokemon games. It simplified it down and focused on doing its core concept well. This also gives the side benefit of a nice development roadmap for new features to add down the road.
Understand Your Target Demographic
A quick Wikipedia search shows that the first episode of Pokemon aired on September 8th 1998. This would have made me 11 years old at the time. When I was 11 years old, myself and all my friends became obsessed with the show and the game.
Rightfully so, at the time we were the target demographic. As we got older of course, we lost interest in a show marketed to tweens and teens. You might assume Pokemon Go would want to market to their core demographic of “10-year-old boys.” Video Games are actually marketed to boys after all, even though they are enjoyed by both genders equally.
Pokemon Go understood their target demographic wasn’t actually 10-year-old boys, but actually the “28-year-old man-child.”
Pokemon Go only has the first 150 original Pokemon in the game, as compared to the total of 720 in all iterations of the original game. This is a brilliant marketing move designed to appeal to the older demographic that would be nostalgic over catching the originals.
We know and feel for the O.G. Pokemon. We have affinity for those characters and can easily jump back into the game. The older demographic didn’t have to learn new Pokemon, but instead can immerse their inner childhood fantasy—to actually become a Pokemon master!.
Speaking of fantasy…
Make Your Product an Experience
Remember how I said that at 11 years old, we would fantasize about becoming a Pokemon master? How we could imagine great battles between our imaginary Pokemon vs our friends imaginary Pokemon?
Fast forward 17 years and that is exactly what Niantic has created. Niantic has allowed all of us to realize our childhood fantasies. As we walk around and go about our day we get to experience finding and catching “real life” Pokemon.
The simple realization of that fantasy has revitalized the Pokemon franchise. It’s reinvigorated the older demographic to care about the franchise and spending time, and money on it.
The experience isn’t just about the childhood fantasy either. There is a huge cultural experience that is happening. As you play Pokemon Go, you inevitably find other Pokemasters exploring and playing.
This gives you a very easy icebreaker to meet new people and bond over the game in real life. You can talk about the various Pokemon in the area, trade strategies to find and capture the best Pokemon, or you can simply smack talk a bit when you find a rival team player (only in good fun though!).
Yesterday I decided to go to the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to see if I could catch some water type Pokemon. Every way I looked, there were groups of guys and girls playing Pokemon Go. Random strangers were meeting, laughing, and exploring the world together.
This to me was such a beautiful experience. We as a society could come together and share a simple positive pleasure in life, all the while getting some exercise and sunshine.
Oh yea, I caught myself a 561cp Wartortle too, so that is a win! To top it off, the 10 miles I longboarded on the beach were just icing on the metaphorical-happiness-cake.
Share with us what you think about Pokemon Go. Plus please let me know where to find those rare Pokemon!