BY BRANDON SCHUG - MANAGER, SOCIAL STRATEGY, DIGITASLBI
Pokémon fever, which has been relatively dormant since the early 00’s, is exploding back into pop culture with Pokémon GO. Masses of people are swarming parks and sidewalks and filling up social media with their cutest and weirdest catches.
Now that Pokémon GO has reached the top of the App Store and nearly overtaken Twitter’s daily active Android users, it’s fair to assume that your friends, family, customers, employees, and even you have likely thrown an augmented reality Pokéball this week, too.
Due to the sudden energy and ubiquity around Pokémon GO, it’s impossible for brands to ignore it. But before jumping headfirst into battle, here are a few things every marketer should consider…
1. GO with the flow
Pokémon GO is on a massive hype train right now fueled by both players and the websites hungry for their traffic.
Understand that, as a brand, there is a huge opportunity to catch this momentum, but also a lot of social noise to break through.
Rather than starting completely new conversations, consider how you can complement and build upon the ones that are already occurring.
2. Speak the language
Speaking players’ language is the best way to be heard. Encourage fans to share and communicate as they naturally would without forcing unnatural product or brand integrations into the conversation. Failing to do so can easily result in a “how do you do, fellow kids” moment.
3. Be mindful of the headlines
Pokémon GO has already created its fair share of scary headlines featuring robberies, dead bodies, and disrespected landmarks. However, these have less to do with the app itself and more to do with the thousands of people suddenly wandering around outside. Headlines like these are nothing to fear for most brands, but for those especially sensitive to such issues, you may want to keep them in mind.
4. Understand the risks
Every major brick-and-mortar brand should already be on the phone with app-developer Niantic to discuss the incredible location-based marketing opportunities the game will offer in the near future. Soon you will be able to create sponsored Pokémon GO locations where trainers can find rare Pokémon. It’s also likely that in-game downloadable content will be added to allow the purchase of apparel items for your character.
But brands that want to join the conversation without a formal relationship with Nintendo should bear in mind the associated risks. Realize that Nintendo is unusually resistant to letting even fans share their IP, let alone brands.
So a good rule of thumb is to encourage fans to generate the content rather than the brand (see BuzzFeed’s recent Facebook live-stream). And always make sure you champion the game first and foremost, putting your brand’s products and services second.
5. Understand the game
Pokémon GO is a free download, so there’s no excuse for not trying it out yourself. If you weren’t tuned in to the geocaching craze you may not get the inherent excitement around location hunting. And if you’re unfamiliar with Pokémon, go find the nearest teenager or 20-something and ask them.
Also realize that despite the buzz, the game in its current form is very simple, missing many key features like chat and Pokémon trading. If Nintendo doesn’t release updates fast enough, this app may prove to be a flash in the pan. On the other hand, many are buzzing that it could eventually become its own social network. For now, the hype train charges full-steam ahead.