Pokémon Go was the Next Big Thing for the summer of 2016. The online game was developed by Niantic Labs, a private company started by Google and spun out to a group of investors including Nintendo. Niantic does not release precise data on Pokémon Go users, saying only that “Pokémon Go has been installed hundreds of millions of times since our launch in early July and is played in more than 100 countries around the world.” Anecdotal evidence indicates that the novelty has worn off, but there are still a lot of dedicated users – often children and their parents, but also those who played with Pokémon cards as youngsters who are riding a nostalgia wave through the electronic iteration. People can play Pokémon together wherever they go, so it may have more life than 2012’s dub videos of “Call Me Maybe” or 2014’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Even if it is a fad, Pokémon Go offers some great strategies that small businesses can use to their advantage. The Next Big Thing, and any trend, can be leveraged to reach target consumers. The first strategy is catching and monitoring the trend – the same way you would in the game. Social media is ideal for catching and monitoring trends. Follow the people and brands that your target customers follow and see what trends emerge. Search for relevant keywords. And there’s the rule of three: if more than three people post something, there may be a trend emerging, so follow up on it.
Once you know the trend, you can plan marketing activities that combine it and your customers in ways that generate sales. You’ll need to move fast – trends are good for short-term promotions, not long-term branding strategies.
Pokémon Go has three features that appeal to businesses. First, it brings people together when they are hunting for the characters. Second, it can be used to bring users to your business. Finally, there are some ancillary products and services that can be promoted to Pokémon trainers.
Because Pokémon users work in groups, My Drink On, which organizes bar crawls, held a Pokémon Go crawl in Chicago. To bring game players to businesses, neighborhood trade groups have used “lures” to bring Pokémon trainers to their shops. (Lures cost about $5.00, but you have to download the Pokémon Go app and purchase them through it. These bring “better” Pokémon characters to your location for a specific period of time.) As for ancillaries, clever marketers have found ways to tie their products to the craze. People using Pokémon Go could use battery packs, reflective vests, and lunch. Even a small, one-off activity can help generate some excitement and attention.
When the next trend rolls around, or if Pokémon Go continues, think about how you can use it to bring people together, to your location, and then sell them products or services they can use while taking part.
The success of Pokémon Go will lead to the development of other location-based games, some of which may have more appeal for your demographic. Whatever turns out to be the hot thing to do next summer, or even before, a little attention, planning, and whimsy can help your business profit from it. Sure, the fad may not last long, but it can add a little fun and a little extra revenue to your life.