Pokemon Go for marketers

I first wrote a four paragraph rant about Pokemon Go and then deleted it. I sounded like an old biddy, annoyed with “these damned kids and their meddling”. Truth be told, I am not really annoyed with people playing Pokemon Go. I used to be into Ingress, and the only PGo piece of info I retweeted was an article on VentureBeat highlighting that the success of PGo emphasizes the need for a cross-over of gaming into real life. That is true. We need more games that link real with digital.

In the past 3–4 days I have scanned over 400 articles about the game, checked on search trends and read [in full] only a handful of titles that genuinely tried to make sense of the craze. It is a craze, BTW — below are compared search trends for PGo and Snapchat (red is Snapchat). This level is not sustainable and the predicted trend is already downward.

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The titles range from the hilarious — people falling over each other or getting lost, to the stupid — people getting killed, to the worrying, people getting shot, to the opportunistic — people launching businesses, becoming consultants or making 300$ in cash in less than a day. All of this playing PGo.

What astonishes me is that nobody seems to be concerned by the sustainability of all this and ask themselves how is this scalable as a business model? Or how will this be affected by a long, cold, bitter winter? Or how long can people ignore their actual lives to play this? But mostly, for me as a planner, the burning question is how can we balance the rhetoric to a point where instead of bending brand to technology we try to understand how to use the technology (in this case, the game) for the brand.

PGo in Japan had to be postponed after server issues were raised and some leaked emails showed that McDonald’s was going to become the first official sponsor, transforming its restaurants into giant PGo playgrounds. By this I understand that McD was going to lure people into its locations with the promise of many Pokemons to collect, and hope that, in the process, they would get very hungry and thirsty. So, the foundation of McDs business would become an accessory to a modern-day arcade. This would make sense if it was a sampling drive, “come in, kill a pokemon, get a free mini Big Mac”. Sampling is important. But this will NOT drive McD’s marketing from now on, nor will it cement the brand’s reputation. Because McD is not an arcade.

I kindof like it when Googlers speak about Intent & Interest. Intent is when you need something and go out looking for it. This is stuff you need for your real life: food, clothing, a new speaker, etc. Search is intent and remains one of the most stable sources of income. Interest is stuff you like and enjoy and want to spend time with. It ranges from deep profound connections like favourite movies and music, to temporary and infrequent interests like the latest catalogue from Victoria’s Secret or a new Avengers episode. You wanna see the latter but you’re not going to bend over backwards. It’s the difference between a Converse and the bedazzled summer edition of Chiara Ferragni’s flip-flops [yes, sarcasm on the last one]. Needs come first. Level of involvement matters with interests. The final perceived value is also different. It’s a pretty basic Maslow’s pyramid.

Now, I ask you: do you think PGo is an intent? A deep, meaningful interest? Or is it the equivalent of the bedazzled flip-flops? And if your answer is the latter, what’s the value in heralding this as the next best thing in …well, anything? At best, PGo is a quick summertime tactic — and yes, every single retailer out there should jump on this before PGo owners think of a standard “monetization platform”, which will almost always mean either in-game purchases or ads. It’s a great tactic. Do it now. If you have a lot of cash, go meet with the creators now and make sure you secure access to their next release and have first-view of the improvements they plan to add. But please, let’s not speak of this as the future of your brand’s marketing. Unless you want your brand to become, yet again, a paid-for nuisance in the midst of a fun pastime.

Digital Strategist. The Internet will save the world (pending verification). Views expressed here are my own/should not be construed as coming from my employer.

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