You aren’t already finding the Pokémon Go phenomenon annoying, are you? Don’t be too hasty to dismiss Pikachu and his crew. There are numbers of ways businesses and politicians can and will benefit by association in what will undoubtedly be this summer’s biggest global mobile blockbuster. Businesses will be keen to emulate the strategies that have boosted formerly ailing Nintendo to a market value of over £25bn, boosting its shares value by 50pc.

The most successful mobile app in US history already has some 21 million active users a day and if it hasn’t yet overtaken Twitter in terms of daily users, it soon will. After launching in Germany, then the UK, it has gone into Italy, Spain and Portugal. Whilst there was frustration when the game’s server continually crashed due to increased players world-wide, these incidents simply generate more free publicity for the game. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro has requested the app come to Brazil, ahead of the Olympics. Launched in the US and Australia on July 6, the game - despite being free to play - is seeing daily profits estimated at $1.6 m (£1.2m)

Nostalgia Factor and Ease of Use

Pokémon Go began as an April Fool’s Day collaboration, inspired by an earlier augmented reality game called Ingress which had been considered very successful as it had been downloaded more than 12m times. In 2014, developers for Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and Google created the prototype Pokémon Challenge. It went on to become a project headed by a Google Maps project manager at Niantic Labs, giving the game its key component of being able to integrate with real locations. Once a Google internal startup, Niantic Labs went independent last year when Google set up Alphabet as its new parent company. In the year since, The Pokémon Company, Google and Nintendo have invested nearly $30m in Niantic to develop the game.

The biggest reason the Augmented Reality (AR) game has been such a rapid success is that Pokémon characters are a 20-year-old branding, a distinct advantage Ingress lacked. The television programme began running in 1997 and is the fourth longest running animated television series. Both the program and video games had primed users who rapidly embraced AG as the next evolution of their familiar childhood characters. Older players, too, find the game very easy to use. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn caught on to the concept of throwing a virtual ball at a monster this weekend, becoming yet another politician to garner a bump of publicity by association with the trending game. 

7 Effective Pokémon Marketing Principles

When you become the top grossing gaming app in only 14 hours, marketers in other industries take notice. In an article titled: 7 Valuable Marketing Lessons Pokémon Go Has Taught Us, Forbes listed seven take-aways from Pokémon Go’s successful launch that can be incorporated in promotion strategies for any company or product.

The sense of nostalgia was a strong aspect of building a sense of identity that leads to loyalty. Another layer of this loyalty is that the gamers play for one of three teams, thus investing themselves in the kind of abiding loyalty associated with sport teams.

A strong branding sets any game or company apart from the others and, as Forbes writer Jayson DeMers put it, “Good branding can sell just about anything.” He also pointed out the value that timing had in the launch, coinciding with school hols. 

The timing of coming out 20 years after the television series was also a stroke of genius, as those fans who were children, now have the buying power to purchase the very nominally priced extras. He didn’t note it, but the pricing of these Pokéballs and lucky eggs is also savvy: they average for just under $1, so users aren’t spending much individually, however in volume this generated $1.6m daily in the US alone. 

Forbes pointed out that “Social proof is everything these days”. Connecting with an audience that shares with their friends is essential. Our smart phones bring us an instant connectivity that lets us communicate immediately on social media. This it what makes social proof king today. With Pokémon Go there’s the added social proof of seeing people who are happily participating - a strong incentive to join in the game, especially for teens and twenty-somethings.

The game was launched without the expense of any adverts, proving that it isn’t always necessary to spend money on advertising and promotion. The game benefits from free publicity each time a news report mentions even negative events such as teens being shot at whilst playing, as has occurred in Florida. Another point for businesses to note is rewarding ongoing investment. Users are spending an average of 43 minutes playing daily because they get bonuses and incentives for continuing to walk and play. We touched on the ease of use as another component that can be replicated, but it can’t be overstated that the easier it is to use an eCommerce platform, app or product, the higher the rate of customer attraction and retention. 

Hillary Clinton Campaigning with Pokémon Go 

While Hillary wasn’t aware that the app was ideal for use as a campaign tool, her 700 young, enthusiastic staffers quickly realised its advantages. Political campaigns pour time and energy into social media platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, rarely able to gauge what outcomes their tweets are having. The platforms limit users to liking or sharing, yet there is no evidence this will translate to registering or voting for a particular candidate. 

Pokémon Go’s advantage is that gamers have to go to specific locations - to PokéStops and gyms where they can compete against other gamers or capture rare monsters. Clinton’s campaign organisers quickly realised they could utilise these spots as they began registering Pokémon Go players to vote. Setting short term 'lures' is free, but the campaign is also paying for ones that last for a longer length of time. One such event is scheduled in Ohio, as her campaign advertises: “…get free Pokémon, and battle each other while you register voters and learn more about Sec. Hillary Clinton!!!”

Hillary referenced the game in a speech, saying: "I don't know who created Pokémon Go, but I'm trying to figure out how to get them to have 'Pokémon Go to the Polls.'" Trump responded by posting a rather insipid Pokémon-inspired insult of her on his Facebook page. His campaign organisers haven’t been using the game to increase voter registration or promote their candidate.

Directing Visitors to Parks, Shops and Animal Welfare Charity

Although it had only been launched for a week, US National parks noticed a marked increase in visitors due to the game. On the weekend following the release, Washington, DC’s National Mall was filled with thousands of gamers who increased sales of street vendor snacks. While some restaurants complained that visiting gamers’ cars were monopolising parking spaces (there are those who drive to the walking destinations), other businesses located near PokéStops and gyms were selling drinks and snacks in volume. 

In Atlanta, a coffee shop called ‘Huge’ noted increased pedestrian traffic due to two nearby PokéStops. By purchasing $40 or, according to our calculator, just over £30 in additional ‘lures’ to add to these stops, the coffee shop was inundated with customers that wouldn’t normally have appeared.

The ‘lures’ were also purchased by animal welfare agencies who reasoned that if Pokémon players needed to walk in order to hatch their virtual eggs, they might as well be walking real dogs. No doubt UK businesses will find similar ways to capitalise on the tactics used to promote the game as well as the crowds turning up on their treasure hunts.