Even if you don’t play video games, you’ve heard about Pokémon GO. Thanks to social media, this mobile game’s pretty inescapable – from friends and family posting screen caps of their in-game exploits to article after article of the good (1, 2, 3), bad, and amusing.
More than one piece marveled that Pokémon GO achieved its success with little-to-no marketing.
The problem with this assertion? It isn’t entirely true.
A conventional advertising, public relations, or social media campaign didn’t precede the launch. Instead, marketing was built into Pokémon GO from the start – with an eye toward leveraging almost two decades of fan interest and engagement.
Marketing factors that shaped Pokémon Go.
1. An idea that taps into the original property’s essence + novel technology.
The Pokémon franchise centers around the idea of catching and cataloging different species of “pocket monsters,” nurturing them, and then participating in Pokémon vs. Pokémon battles. Its hundreds of fictional species vary in power and temperament. They also are frequently cute. Many – if not most – Pokémon fans have thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to catch and train Pokémon for real?”
2. Leveraging a powerful brand & the 20 years of marketing that built it.
The multimedia Pokémon franchise spans video games, trading card games, comics (manga), children’s books, multiple animated (anime) series and movies, toys, apparel, merchandise, and special events, including tournaments.
3. Identifying Pokémon GO’s potential audience & its overlapping segments.
One of the most important questions to ask when you’re creating a product or service is a marketing question: “Who is going to want, use, and support this?” For Pokémon GO, this target audience includes:
- Current fans of video games, cartoons, comics, trading card and tabletop games, and anime and manga. (If these fans happen to be parents, many actively share their hobbies with their children in an age-appropriate way.)
- Fans who were around for the franchise’s first round of U.S. success. Today, many of those early fans are parents or regularly interact with children. And many have introduced the kids in their lives to Pokémon.
- Individuals for whom Pokémon was a step toward exploring the worlds of video games and anime.
- Fans whose interest in the franchise has waned. (Even then, many are still likely to have nostalgia for the Pokémon property and its characters.)
4. Understanding how potential audience members behave & engage with one another.
Niantic and The Pokémon Company know that these fans turn to social media and special events specifically for the purpose of interacting with others who share their same interests.
- They are early adopters who are active on social media and are mostly up-to-date with the latest tech gadgets.
- They are also the same individuals who attend comic cons, geek gatherings, and anime conventions. (See attendance figures for San Diego Comic Con, Anime Expo 2016, and the top anime cons of 2015.)
Pokémon GO gives its players one more way to interact with fellow fans in the real and virtual worlds. It also receives the benefit of fan-driven social promotion, as players flock to the Internet to post their latest in-game “captures” and organize real-life gatherings.