We all thought we left Pokemon back in the 1990’s, along with our Tazos, Barbie Magazines and Walkmans. It seems this isn’t so, with the emergence of Pokemon GO just five days ago hitting the notoriously tough to engage Gen Y hard. It’s reached a pivotal point where there are now hordes of grown adults slightly more addicted to their phones than usual, glued to their screens and aiming to fulfil their lifelong dreams of being a Pokemon Master.

So why has Pokemon GO become such a success, with the entire global population feeling a sudden urge to ‘Catch ‘Em All’ and become a Pokemon Master? It’s kind of simple.

It’s a game that plays on the brain, and one that any smart marketer can use to drive interest in their brand or product. Take a group of people who have a connection to a particular product/game/era, particularly in relation to their childhood. If you reference Pokemon, many people aged 20+ remember swapping grubby cards in the school yard, watching Pokemon cartoons on a Saturday morning and buying Pikachu merchandise. Even if they weren’t directly involved and didn’t understand how it worked, there will be some distant childhood memory of Pokemon lurking in the recesses of their mind.

Add to this innovation. Since we were trading Pokemon cards, dealing with Pokemon classroom theft, and begging our parents to buy us more, things have changed. This circle of grubby kids on the school yard turned into adults. Some of them with great jobs and disposable income. Almost all of them with a handheld technology device they use almost constantly. This allows adults to integrate a concept from years past into their day to day lives; something they can do as surreptitiously or as openly as they choose.

There are many people who have previously dreamed of becoming a Pokemon Master, so the chance to do it in real life and the ability to actually catch Pokemon has been a huge driver in downloads, signups and interest in the game. These two ingredients; nostalgia and innovation equate to the current Pokemon craze and is by far the reason the launch of Pokemon GO has been a worldwide success from Sydney to Melbourne, LA and beyond.

Customer loyalty is a tough one to crack, particularly in the world of apps and gaming. The savvy team behind Pokemon GO understand the importance of user feedback and ability to drive loyalty as a result during the early development stages. To properly launch Pokemon Go, Beta groups or 'Field Tests' as Niantic called them were set up to test the application and gain consumer feedback from real users which is common within the gaming world.

Not only did this allow the Pokemon GO app to have a range of bugs identified and resolved prior to launching, but it also built die hard power users. The core of any game, and the people who act as Influencers within this community. These Pokemon Go gaming ambassadors were used to organically spread the word at a grass roots level, and encourage other likeminded people to come on board the game.

It also provided a level of ownership amongst members, they felt they had personally contributed to the development of the game (despite it already being in existence and reskinned to fit the Pokemon brand) but also created a deep connection encouraging higher engagement levels and usage. 

Community engagement is vital for brands today, there’s no question. Brand strategy has been driven by digital, with people openly trying to create communities through their messaging, social media presence and content strategy. The launch of Pokemon GO has created a seamless community that happens to be driven by competiton.

Since Pokemon GO officially launched, a number of ‘real life’ groups have been set up. People have reconnected after not speaking for years. Events have been created allowing people to hunt Pokemon whilst completing a pub crawl or walking for fitness. Hordes of people are visiting ‘landmarks’ within the game in order to achieve an unrivalled user experience.

Add to this the competition factor; that while there is a sense of community, people are desperately wanting the rarest Pokemon finds. They are angling to win the most Gyms and are even spending money to do so. People are splitting into Pokemon teams, creating banter and rivalry. Competitive people who love a challenge are flocking to Pokemon GO, which will likely give additional longevity to the game, as well as pump up the revenue it makes as a result of in-app purchases and material.  

As PR and Communications specialists, Neon Black know that hype can make or break a launch. Despite being a recognisable brand, Pokemon GO had a number of interesting stories, newsworthy notes and a strong PR strategy behind it. First of all the technology has brought a schoolyard game into the real world. It’s been a dream for countless kids to spot a Clefairy in their day to day life, and for many, as grown adults they’ve been able to do this through the lense of their iPhone. PR teams have been careful not to reveal too much about the game to media, meaning that in order to understand it, they must download it, use it and report on it themselves. The lack of instruction manuals is also creating an environment where news website are compiling and reporting on how to use Pokemon Go, as well as a number of in-app hacks to enhance the user experience.

The weird, wacky and wonderful stories have also been a huge driver in the Pokemon GO hype. A range of mysterious reports of people falling off bridges, people finding bodies through playing the game and people deliberately creating landmarks so that people get mugged. All this has built Pokemon GO into a talking point, creating an innate need for consumers to engage and get involved with the hype, lest they be left behind.

Media are continuing to drive the hype knowing these reports of Pokemon GO are causing additional clicks, creating high performance stories and are attracting large scale consumer interest for their mastheads. With media driving the conversation and consumers buying into it, there’s no doubt that this has created a perfect storm and the cogs of the hype machine are spinning.

While these four things have undoubtedly created a whole lot of interest and engagement when it comes to Pokemon GO, we are left with a certain knowledge. Like anything that builds mass hype and hysteria, there’s also a time frame attached to this. The days where people congregate at core locations to try catch rare Pokemon are numbered and are likely to fade very quickly, leaving Pokemon to be another long forgotten fad of 2016. It won’t be long before Pokemon GO will be joining Tazos, Velour Tracksuits and Selfie Sticks in the ‘distant memory’ category and a new digital trend will reign supreme.

Neon Black is more than just a PR Agency. We are creative communicators dedicated to telling the story of your brand and achieving results that directly impact your business. With clients Australia-wide, we have made waves in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, as well as worked on globally recognised brands and campaigns. We are a hybrid mix of experts, offering PR, communications, marketing, digital, social media, SEO and creative to help your business grow and your customers sit up and take notice.