Starting last week, it appears that everyone is playing Pokémon GO. If you’re not already playing it yourself, you’ve no doubt heard about it. It’s not an overstatement to say that the new mobile and augmented reality game from Niantic Labs and The Pokémon Company is having a colossal effect on people’s daily routines. As creatures of bad habits, mobile phone addictions and a newly formed breed of obsessed of Pokémon Trainers are trying to be the very best… like no one ever was.
This basically means that one can find himself wandering about at 2AM towards a local PokéStop or Gym, unusually long walks with our canine friends and a co-pilot double-fisting smartphones while you’re driving somewhere. I don’t know if you have come across some of the absurd things Pokémon GO players do in order to clock in more walking distance and gather in-game items. It started with tying Android devices to pets and, moved on to more creative solutions such as tying Android devices to ceiling fans, putting it on iRobot cleaner, flying drones, and the list goes on of course.
For those of you that are still unfamiliar with the game, Pokémon GO utilizes your phone’s GPS and camera to turn the real world into a massive hunting ground for the iconic pocket monsters, it also transforms local landmarks and businesses into Pokémon Gyms (where trainers go to train their Pokémon and battle against other teams) and PokéStops, which players need to physically visit to stock up on free accessories and items like PokéBalls. On the surface, it’s a fun mobile game whose popularity is as fascinating as it is enjoyable and engaging, but the superficial fun of the app has led to some real results—Nintendo’s valuation has increased by an estimated $11 billion thanks to the game.
The question that I want to discuss is how did this niche mobile game skyrocketed to such an astounding popularity after less than a week? Well, in my own honest opinion, it mostly breaks down to some clever marketing principles, all of which can help local business “ride the wave” to promote other business, brands, services and products:
Pokémon Go is actually based on an existing system for another location-based mobile game called Ingress. Have you ever heard of Ingress? Perhaps, but it didn’t achieve the same level of success because it is not a well-known or well-recognized brand. On the other hand, Pokémon is a brand that has been developing itself since the 90’s. Adding new characters every few years, and releasing new video games and anime series – all assisted in shaping Pokémon into a powerful brand. The game itself is good, but without the branding, without the various generations of fans, it never would have taken off in such a fashion.
Reflect about it for a moment, Pokémon Go was released just as the summer started, the best time when people are looking for any excuse to go outside and walk around. Imagine a scenario where the game release was available during the dead of winter, during the time of rain and blizzards. Publishing the game when school is over and festivals are kicking-off is no coincidence. It is also a great timing due to the fact that it’s Pokémon’s 20 year anniversary, and most of the players are fans who were children when the series’ first launched – making 20-35 year old adults a significant buying power.
Pokemon GO is just insane right now. This is in Central Park. It's basically been HQ for Pokemon GO. pic.twitter.com/3v2VfEHzNA
— Jonathan Perez (@IGIhosT) July 11, 2016
To make this point clear, let me ask you a question – When was the last time that you noticed a new product and bought it only because you really need it and not because someone else you know has talked about it or reviewed it first? Maybe in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. With today’s numerous social channels, we are all more immediately connected, we communicate faster and we can basically aggregate all the information we want or need in an instant. Nowadays, we mostly buy products based on other people’s reviews, comments and tips. We are all a part of this psychological phenomenon called social proof, where people assume that if others like the product, they are also likely to share their impression. With Pokémon Go, the influence of social proof is very visible to the eye—When you see everyone around you having fun playing the same game everywhere you turn, it’s almost impossible not to want to get involved.
— PokemonGO Memes (@PokemonGoMemes) July 11, 2016
When it comes Pokémon Go, there are various identity factors that give players some sense of belonging and loyalty:
One of the methods for ensuring that players will return to a game and play are in-game rewards. In Pokémon Go, players get bonuses and incentives for almost every action they do, starting with the usuals such as leveling up, taking on gyms, catching new Pokemon, and ending up with even walking around—the thrill and excitement of finding a new and rare Pokémon or winning an intense battle in order to take over a gym are enough to keep players grinding for more—sometimes at the expense of their productivity.
This is yet another successful component that keeps attracting new players to start gaming as well as retaining all the existing once. Pokémon Go has an extremely low learning curve, the game is easy enough that no tutorials or instructions, are needed at all. The mechanics of the game are very intuitive which makes it simple and fun to play—all you need to do is walk around, look at your phone’s screen occasionally, and stay alert for phone vibrations (so you know when you can catch a Pokémon). This is pretty much the basics for every digital product, if your website or app is well-designed, easy to use and carries away the message that you intended at the first place—new users will want to get involved with your product or service.
By having an amazing brand and 20 years of loyalists to its name, Pokemon GO simply caught on fire. Only a few days after Pokémon Go was (officially) available in the Japan, US, Australia, and New Zealand, it has already been installed on 5.16% of all Android devices in the US alone. I know it doesn’t sound like much but consider that Pokémon GO was already installed on more US Android phones than Tinder in only 2 days after its release.
Pokémon GO is on it’s way to be the very best on all fronts and is also achieving a vast amount of daily user engagement. Over 60% of those who have downloaded the game in the US are using it daily, meaning around 3% of the entire US Android population are users of the game. This metric, which is also referred to as “Daily Active Users” or “DAU” has put Pokémon GO in a 1-on-1 match with Twitter.
In terms of Usage Time, Pokémon GO is taking up a ton of its user’s time. As of July 8th, the app was being used for an average of 43 minutes, 23 seconds a day, higher than Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Messenger.
Outside of the US, users around the world have been trying to download Pokémon GO using an apk, bypassing the official app store with over 600,000 visits on July 5th to over 4 million visits on July 6th.
This traffic to APKMirror came mostly via Organic Search Traffic and over the 28 day period from June 10th to July 7th, 19.6% of desktop search traffic came from the search term “pokemon go apk”. In total, 30.5% of all desktop search traffic over this time period came from searches with the term “pokemon” in them. Furthermore, the traffic to APKMirror has come from all over the world, with the US only accounting for 10.8% of the site’s desktop traffic over the last 28 days. After the US, users in Brazil are leading the charge to download Pokémon GO via an apk and are responsible for 8.2% of APKMirror’s traffic over the same time period.
According to David Ingles of Bloomberg, Nintendo’s stock had a 20% surge a day since Pokémon GO was released. This is the best one-day move that Nintendo had experienced since 1983. With only a few days of data, Pokémon GO has an extremely high app retention rate, especially considering that users often decide within the first 3-7 days.
If you apply these lessons or should I say, principles to your own business, brand, service and product, you will most certainly see an increase in both customer acquisition and retention. Of course you have start somewhere and it will take time to reach the exact amount of success or achievements that you have set for yourself—If Pokémon Go was a bad game, even the marketing advantages couldn’t make it stick the way it did. If you adhere to these measures, you can build a successful product which can grant you an “overnight success” if you have solid foundation in the first place of course.