3 Key Lessons For Comms Pros From The Pokémon Go Phenomenon

Darryl Sparey explains how Pokémon Go can benefit comms pros


Pokémon Go is nothing short of a digital phenomenon. At the time of writing there are over 40 million downloads of Pokémon Go, shattering records on both iTunes and Playstore.

In a short space of time it’s overtaken Tinder, Candy Crush and even Twitter in daily active users, despite currently only being officially available in 31 countries. It’s the hottest thing on the planet right now and I’d wager most of you have at least considered downloading it. I’m already borderline obsessed!

As well as getting to level 19 as a Pokémon Trainer, I’ve also picked up a few key lessons from Pokémon Go that I think comms pros can benefit from:

  1. Network marketing works – With minimal investment in any form of above-the-line promotion Pokémon Go has established staggering user numbers. Social sharing of screen shots of augmented reality images generated by finding Pokémon within the game has led to soaring popularity of the app. The gamification elements and competitive nature of the app, whereby you can power-up and evolve Pokémon to have higher scores and then battle, win and occupy Gyms, encourage users to show off their progress across social. Check out the Snapchat feeds from when Pokémon Go was released in Japan.
  2. Newsjacking opportunities abound! – At time of writing there have been over 276m articles written about Pokémon Go, but the media interest in the app shows no signs of abating. From coverage of new business models – such as Pokémon Go pub crawls or trainers you can pay to train your Pokémon while you are at work – to instances of regional attention based on where rare Pokémon have been found, there is a still huge media interest in this app.
  3. Originality doesn’t matter – Gamification, location-based social media, augmented reality – all of these technologies have been available for a number of years. Indeed, the Pokémon game itself is based on a trading card game twenty years old! What Pokémon Go has done brilliantly is to bring together a number of these different technologies into one genuinely compelling and addictive game. Originality isn’t what’s made the difference, it’s the reason to play which has (and in spite of some fairly major technical bugs and glitches, to boot).

Still not convinced?

The makers of Pokémon will seek to further monetise the already huge install base and will need to seek new ways to keep its user base active. Currently methods of monetisation within the app are fairly limited to a shop where you can buy “Poké Coins” for money and exchange these for things such as egg incubators, and Poké balls which you’ll use within the game.

Here’s where I see potential future opportunities that comms pros may be able to capitalise on:

  1. Location-based marketing – Unquestionably Pokémon Go has a huge opportunity to build a location-based platform, which would seek sponsorship from stores, pubs, cafes, cinemas etc. Currently Pokéstops around the app are frequently non-commercial points of interest. Since the app asks for very little personal information from the user at set-up, it seems clear that if it wants to monetise the huge audience it has through paid in-game advertising it will do this through giving companies the opportunity to sponsor or create Pokéstops for themselves.
  2. Health & fitness – There have been countless attempts to create health and fitness apps which seek to gamify and incentivise physical activity. Pokémon Go has created a compelling incentive to walk or run without making users conscious of the fact that they are doing it! As Pokémon Go will need to keep its existing user base coming back for more you can easily see how there may be tie-ups, incentives and promotions based on distance travelled, calories burned, experience points accrued, number of Pokéstops visited or a whole a range of other activities.
  3. Image-based sharing – There is a little used camera app within Pokémon Go, which enables you to take pictures of Pokémon within the app. As image sharing is one of the most common uses of apps on smartphones it’s easy to see how the makers of Pokémon Go might seek to increase the usage of and incentive for using this native camera app. If more experience points, Poké coins or power-up items could be earned from social image sharing within the app, Pokémon Go could, overnight, become one of the biggest image sharing apps of all time, given its user base.
  4. Social engagement and collaboration – Currently within the app you can join one of three teams to attack Pokémon gyms which are controlled by opposing teams. In practice this is a very loose association and in-app there is no way of contacting or collaborating with other members of the same team. Should messaging features be introduced or a “find nearby team member” function become available, huge social networking opportunities abound, given the install base and amount of time people are currently spending in-app.

I’ll leave you with one final point to cement my case…

In the last week alone, I have talked to more strangers – across the UK – about the shared experience of Pokémon Go. Arguably at a time where, for myriad reasons, fear of strangers has never been greater, any reason to stop, tell a tale, share a laugh or take photo with someone you don’t know is a force for social good. And besides, I’ll need help if I’m gonna catch ‘em all!

Author Bio

Daryl Sparey is part of the team at Hotwire PR, an integrated PR and communications agency. To read more from Hotwire PR, visit their blog.

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