Pokemon: Is It a Go for Your Brand?

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The following is a guest post from Allison Kaplan, communications consultant and 2005 graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She can be found on Twitter at @allisonjkaplan and on LinkedIn. 

Any time something registers as more than just a blip on the cultural radar, brands attempt to leverage it. A few examples include Beyonce’s recent “Lemonade” release, Star Wars’ “The Force Awakens” promotions and, of course, “The Dress.”

It’s not surprising. Digital marketing and technology have been upending the promotional landscape for the past decade, requiring companies to stay on their toes to compete.

Some of them are actually using their toes—and feet—to jump on the phenomenal success of Pokemon Go. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since its launch on July 6, you’ve probably heard of the mobile game that’s drawing crowds, causing a stir and making national news.

Following are a few of the incredible numbers as of July 18, just 12 days after Pokemon Go seemingly took over the world. (Note: these are estimates and changing rapidly!):

  • Pokemon Go has been downloaded 7.5. million times in the United States.
  • Pokemon Go now has more daily users on Android phones than Twitter.
  • Players are using Pokemon Go for an average of 43 minutes a day, more than Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.
  • Just on iOS, the game is making around $1.6 million per day.

With numbers like this, Pokemon Go is a PR behemoth, not only sparking countless conversations on social media, but also creating headlines on major news outlets. This has many companies, large and small, eyeing Pokemon Go as a PR opportunity.

Your Brand: Yes or No to Pokemon Go?

Should every brand try to make Pokemon Go part of their brand strategy? Not necessarily. There are some organizations that are better fits than others, and it’s important to think through what you’re trying to achieve by tying your brand to the game.

If you want to leverage Pokemon Go in a meaningful way, here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not it has a place in your promotional arsenal:

  • Know your audience. One of my favorite marketing credos lives true as you look at whether or not Pokemon Go is a good fit for your brand. Do the demographics you serve fit a millennial profile? If yes, you know you want to be on the same wavelength as this coveted age group. A perfect example of this is ride-sharing company Lyft’s offer to give riders 20 percent off if they’re heading to Seattle PokeStops. Lyft knows its user base is heavily made up of young people, plus its business is focused on transportation. It’s an ideal combination.

On the flip side, if you target an older audience that isn’t as in tune with mobile technology and gaming, it may be best to allocate your resources to another initiative.

  • Relevant engagement. Does the opportunity for pertinent Pokemon Go engagement exist for your brand? While it’s easy to send out a few tweets declaring your interest in the game, or something clever about how it relates to your business, does that have value? It’s best if you have something unique about your location, business or community that connects with the premise of the game. Some restaurants and retailers are taking advantage of their locations, whether they’re next to a PokeStop or they create their own Pokemon Gym, and are seeing increased traffic and more customers.
  • Timing. When it comes to attaching your brand to a fast-moving trend, there are a few things you want to keep in mind. Due to its quick arrival, you have to act quickly. You can’t get bogged down in approvals, overwrought planning and logistics.

You also want to make sure your team has the time to proactively engage with Pokemon Go users and to stay on top of the latest developments.

Cincinnati specialty grocer Jungle Jims International Market moved with lightning speed to take advantage of the game’s popularity. Just two days after the game launched, Jungle Jims posted an interactive map of where users could find Pokemon within one of its stores. In addition, a few days later it started promoting a Pokemon Go meet up at a store, further capitalizing on the trend.

Depending on your goals, budget and business, tying your brand to Pokemon Go can be a valuable and important way to reach a highly engaged (and large!) group of consumers. Sometimes, a few tweets may make sense, but there’s a difference between doing something that will flare out and doing something to enhance your brand and engagement.

Looking for more inspiration on how organizations have been making Pokemon Go part of their brand strategy? PR Week recently shared a wide-ranging roundup of brands that have successfully jumped on the bandwagon, including Cinnabon, the Smithsonian and Monster.

Have you seen a particularly interesting case of a brand leveraging Pokemon Go? Tweet to us at @SyracuseComm.

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