Pokemon Go and brand marketing

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It’s hard to believe that the most popular app in the known universe right now- crossing gender, class, racial, religious and age lines- is basically an interactive version of a Japanese cartoon for kids. Not least a Japanese cartoon for kids that enjoyed its global heyday more than a decade ago.

Or maybe it isn’t, depending on your feelings towards society.
Either way, whether Pokemon Go is here to stay or not remains to be seen. In a fast moving world fads arrive and leave like lightning, but nobody can deny the overwhelming popularity of the game. Nintendo shares skyrocketed after its launch, and figures suggest that over 5% of all U.S. Android users have already downloaded the app, just weeks after it went live.
So, what is it? To those completely in the dark, Pokemon is a TV series and toy franchise that centres on an alternate reality, whereby the ‘normal’ world runs parallel with a universe populated by strange creatures that have managed to cross over into our realm. These can be ‘collected’ using a spherical storage device, and released to engage in magical battles against one another, the victor’s spoils being ownership of the losing collector’s little monster.
Pokemon Go extends this into our everyday lives, quite literally bringing the series to life. Using Augmented Reality, players look at the world in front of them through their phone camera, with the software rendering Pokemon creatures into the landscape. The idea being to run around collecting as many of the little mites as possible, the more bagged the higher your level becomes.
All of which brings us to the next question- why the hell should brands care, and what examples of brand marketing are available?
Although there is no straight forward way to advertise through Pokemon Go, already firms are finding ways around this. In the U.S., organic yogurt manufacturer Stonyfield has launched multiple campaigns on platforms that users may have running in the background whilst playing the game- for example messaging apps.
Using push notifications, players are encouraged to click on a prompt that reads ‘Time to catch a Stonyfield’. If they respond, they are shown a map in the host app, with nearby store locations clearly marked, in keeping with the game’s look.
McDonalds is apparently in talks with Niantic, the game developers, and is looking to purchase and pilot the first ever sponsored Pokemon Go locations- in short, we’re expecting a sharp increase in the number of creatures hiding out in branches of the fast food chain as the coming weeks roll by. The hope being that once someone grabs themselves a new monster they’ll refuel by grabbing themselves a Big Mac.
Closer to home, Manchester taxi firm Street Cars has taken inspiration from Uber drivers, with both services offering to drive players around a locality, making it easier to track down the elusive Pokemon. These examples are likely just the beginning of increasing brand attention directed at Pokemon Go, too, indicative of how companies seem to be expecting this craze to at least last for longer than yesterday’s newspapers- exactly what that timescale will be is anyone’s guess, but if you’re already on board good luck with the hunt.