What brands can learn from Pokémon Go

* 3 min read

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard about Pokémon Go. It’s everywhere. Across the globe Pokémon-lovers are hitting the streets, smartphone in hand, on the hunt for the next creature to catch. We’re all talking about it too. Pokémon Go garnered more tweets in the week of its release than Brexit did during the referendum.

So how has the franchise been given a new lease of life? First off, Pokémon Go has reinvigorated its original fan base. But its designers have primed the product for business too. It’s a winning combination that has applications across branding, marketing and packaging design.

The return of Pokémon comes at a time when the ‘90s are having a real moment. It’s not just Pikachu – Dr. Martens, dungarees and chokers are back in style too. But retro is a delicate thing. And you have to know exactly how to leverage it. The immediate past has little appeal. Brands have to wait for a certain period of time for that golden moment when it pays to relaunch. If Pokémon’s anything to go by, it’s about 20 years.

So, retro’s complicated. But Pokémon’s made a smart move on this front. It hasn’t just hedged its bets on grown-up 90s kids, Pokémon is also designed to appeal to other generations. It’s hard to get a handle on exactly how many younger users have caught the Go bug as the company hasn’t yet provided data on users under 18. But if the streets are any indicator, it’s certainly reached the schoolchildren of 2016 too. In any case, according to Vox Magazine, 40% of adults who have downloaded Pokémon Go are 25 or older. This 40% is a direct hit on the original user base – leaving a fascinating 60% unaccounted for. Who’s to say they’re not much older?

Pokémon Go’s use of augmented reality doesn’t just appeal to the general public, it’s a real boon for brands and retailers too. But as they scramble to jump on the Pokémon bandwagon, they ought to be careful. If they’ve faded from view more recently, riding on Pokémon’s coat-tails won’t guarantee them similar success. But if a brand’s already established, they’ll do well to incorporate themselves into whatever Pokémon Go has in store. Big, timeless corporations like McDonald’s spotted the opportunities early, with some suggesting it has a presence in the original coding.

From pubs pizza places, there’s been no shortage of local businesses using the game’s “lure” feature to attract Pokémon and in turn, players out hunting. Sponsored locations for retailers are already confirmed. Every hit app ultimately develops a monetary aspect. We can expect Pokémon Go to diversify and integrate with a variety of sectors.

Pokémon’s adoption of augmented reality suits the grocery sector in particular. FMCG brands are constantly studying how customers navigate their aisles. It’s always changing – something our CIO, Kevin Evans, looked at in detail recently. The rise of Pokémon could see a revolution in interactive packaging on this front, with limited edition packs enticing consumers to their corner of the supermarket.

It’s well within the realms of possibility. Tecate, Heineken and King Arthur Flour have all recently incorporated augmented reality into their packaging. Ultimately, at the heart of Pokémon’s resurgence is the new game’s technological mastery. Doing the same with packaging design and large supermarket stores could be a real game changer. In reality, Pokémon Go hasn’t actually radically departed from its original idea. It’s just a fresh spin on an old concept. Players still roam the landscape catching Pokémon, except now they can do it in real life.

Nostalgia plays a big part, but a smart technological update can really breathe new life into a product. Interactivity is the Holy Grail for brands and Pokémon has really nailed it here. It’s brought its game out of the screen and into the streets. Brands shouldn’t just look to get involved with Pokémon Go’s success, they should learn from it.