Mobile, News

What Marketers Can Learn from the Unstoppable Pokémon Go

Written by Tim Edmundson

Even if you wanted to, you can’t ignore the rise of Pokémon Go. Since its release in the US two weeks ago, the augmented reality mobile game has become something anyone and everyone is required to know about – in any major city, you can spot hordes of both the old and young staring at their phones, running across intersections in hopes of catching elusive virtual Pokémon.

But the new craze isn’t just a game – it’s a combination of technology and social advances bundled up in a nostalgia-laden package that has millions glued to their phones adventuring down streets, through parks, and out into the wilderness. If they’re not playing it, they’re talking about it. And the game’s success isn’t limited to the virtual world; Nintendo’s stock doubled in the first week, increasing its market cap to over $9 billion. There’s a Pokémon Go Slack channel up and running here at SteelHouse, reducing our productivity––but raising our Vitamin D levels.

With the run away success of the mobile game, we have to ask: what can marketers learn from this? After all, there are key takeaways to be found: Pokémon has accomplished what marketers dream about; it has grabbed the attention of millions, kept them engaged, and (most importantly) has customers converting and spending money. Let’s take a look and see what we can learn from this adorably addicting phenomenon.


Pokémon Go’s success wasn’t just blind luck – they took the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. One of the best ways to get feedback on your product is to test it with your target audience, and in late May Niantic Labs (the game’s publisher) released the United States beta for over a full month of extensive testing. This not only let them stress test their game, but also gave them vital feedback on features (both existing and desired) that would make the game even more attractive to consumers.

The results spoke volumes – many beta testers reported loneliness, citing the game’s inability for multiplayer action. Taking this feedback to heart, Niantic is currently working on multiplayer and trading features for its community. Testing also showed that one of the most popular ways to enjoy the game was in groups – you can see this yourself by looking out your window and seeing mobs of Pokémon hunters traveling in packs. And as the game continues to pick up steam, people are actually meeting new friends through the game and gathering at major Pokémon social events. This hasn’t fallen on deaf ears – Niantic is also developing features to help support these developments as well.

So what can marketers learn from this?

Testing is key – Pokémon is benefiting from listening to its audience and responding to make sure they are offering what consumers find appealing. Your brand should be doing the same at every touch point.

Test your campaigns – A/B testing is essentially beta testing your campaign. It gives you insight into what works, what doesn’t, and gives you an idea of what you can do to ensure continued success. Is a particular combination of copy and imagery effective? Double down on that combo and look for other combinations that share common traits.

If you think of your A/B testing as your beta, you’ll be able to optimize your campaigns much more effectively.

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 9.49.12 AMENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE

How a brand engages with their users is critical information for marketers, especially when it comes to a product like Pokémon Go. Many statistics can lead both consumers and marketers astray – some may champion daily installs, but the critical stat for marketers is Daily Active Users which reports on both retention and engagement rates (so critical in fact, it was featured in an episode of this season’s Silicon Valley). And this is a stat that Pokémon Go has blown out of the water.

According to SimilarWeb, by July 11th – 6 days after its release – the app had already been installed on 10.8 million Android devices in the US. But their daily active user base is even more impressive – almost 6% of the entire Android population was coming back day after day to interact with the product. Now THAT is engagement.

So what can marketers learn from Pokémon’s mastery of engagement?

User experience is key – if your customer has a good experience, they’re going to return. This can be the thrill of hunting Pikachu in your backyard, or providing a smooth checkout process with an enticing free-shipping offer (we know which one is more fun, but stay with us on this)

Word of mouth matters – Pokémon Go has barely utilized traditional advertising and has relied solely on word of mouth. If you create an experience worth sharing through your sale process of offers, not only will your customer return, they’ll bring their friends.


Pokémon Go has hammered home the fact that mobile is the future of user engagement – it’s where people are spending their time and there is little indication that this trend will change. It comes as no surprise that a product that was heavily targeted to the mobile market succeeded.

One major drawback when it comes to mobile, however is data-usage creating a drag on consumers. In a stroke of genius, carrier T-Mobile capitalized on the situation and gave customers the ability to claim a gift of unlimited data for downloading the T-Mobile Tuesdays app. Take a lesson from T-Mobile and don’t be afraid to think outside the box when constructing a marketing campaign – take advantage of trends and find ways to get your brand into the conversation.


Location technology has become one of the fastest growing platforms in digital advertising. Startups like Snapchat and Yext are taking advantage of location-based advertising in selling special, on demand geofilters to brands, which reach 40%-60% of daily active users.

Pokémon Go took location-based advertising to a whole new level. By placing virtual Pokéstops (where Pokémon are easier to find) at physical locations such as stores, malls, and other landmarks, Pokémon Go found an organic way to increase foot traffic in those areas. It’s nothing short of a brilliant marketing campaign both for Pokémon Go and the businesses involved. With sponsored locations coming to the product in upcoming weeks with a cost per visit basis (in the same vein as a CPC), Niantic is illustrating the power of location.

How can you harness the power of location for your own mobile campaigns?

Don’t be afraid to form your campaigns around specific locations; find out what’s going on locally, and capitalize on emerging markets that competitors have failed to tap.

Offer coupons to costumers near your brick and mortar storefronts – give them a reason to come inside and make a purchase.


With the success of any major product, there are always lessons to be learned. Pokémon Go is no exception – and as the game continues to evolve and engage consumers in different ways, more lessons will emerge that marketers can apply to their own campaigns.

So while you’re out there on the streets hunting Squirtle and Meowth and trying to become the ultimate Pokémaster, remember that you’re actually making yourself a better marketer (in a roundabout sort of way). Just remember to look both ways before bagging that Ponyta!