The Best Ad Strategy for Pokemon Go Might Not Be What You Think

4 reasons to consider an agnostic approach

Pokemon Go could be the beginning of a shift in the way we advertise. Yes, it is bridging the gap between the online and offline experience and leveraging the latest augmented reality. But, it is also finding success using a generic targeting approach to marketing.

In a world where marketers are using hyper-targeted strategies to drive brand awareness and conversion from the "right" audience, it is hard to believe success can be found leveraging a generalized approach. Pokemon Go, the latest and greatest augmented-reality mobile application, became the most popular mobile app across generations, cultures, genders and race in less than a week.

Marie Goldstein Alex Fine

With little advertising, Pokemon Go has already been downloaded on 5.6 percent of all Android devices in the U.S., has been downloaded on more Android phones than Tinder, and surpassed Twitter in daily active users on Android. This enthusiastic public reaction is a telling sign of the current state of the digital marketing industry. For years, marketers have been focused on creating content for the right audience and right time to drive key marketing objectives. However, Pokemon Go's success proves that an agnostic reposition may be needed. Here are four reasons why:

Generalization is baked into its DNA. The game's developer, Niantic, leverages Google technology and consumer-generated insights from its game Ingress to determine user experience. For example, PokeStops (virtual gaming resource stops) are set by the volume of geotagged photos uploaded to Google, not the most popular places for gamers to visit.

Pokemon has an established history. The Pokemon brand has been around for three decades and has adapted each iteration to the industry's latest gaming technology. Its adaptive nature has allowed Pokemon to shape a pan-generational brand.

Interest is driven by word of mouth. The game's GPS integration is providing an offline experience that is refreshing to players who are used to highly personal online experiences. The human engagement occurring at PokeStops is providing a point of differentiation that has made the game addicting and a hot topic of conversation and activating perspective players.

It provides a generational juxtaposition. For gamers who have been following the Pokemon brand over the last three decades, this version instilled a sense of nostalgia. However, for younger gamers who were not familiar with Pokemon in the late '90s and early 2000s, the innovative augmented tech had a strong appeal.

But before considering an agnostic advertising approach, marketers must understand that Pokemon Go is an outlier. In most cases a targeted and tailored plan is needed to drive measurable results. However, Pokemon Go's success leads us to consider generic targeting for brands or products that exemplify the following criteria:

An established community. Having a fanatical fan base to start and continue the Pokemon Go conversation helped genuinely build the game's popularity rather than a celebrity-like influencer who has extensive reach but little credibility within the niche community. Brands should build a community of power fans who authentically seed new products or campaigns to help drive the awareness wildfire.

Multiple product benefits. Pokemon Go appeals to a large audience because it delivers on various user benefits—nostalgia, innovation, fitness, etc. Various points of resonance not only help grow a brand or product's potential audience, but also provide a well-rounded user experience.

A common platform. Unlike Pokemon's original products, Pokemon Go was made for mobile (Android and iOS), making it more accessible to a larger audience rather than a gaming-specific segment that relies on other devices. As 68 percent of adults now own smartphones—compared to the 40 percent of adults who own gaming consoles—this accessibility increased Pokemon's potential audience by 70 percent. This is similar to the original insight that made advertising on social networks so successful.

This approach is new and unexplored, but Pokemon Go's explosive and broad success adds validity that cannot go unnoticed. Marketers should evaluate if this approach is right for their brand based on the above criteria and test it on lower-priority products and campaigns to understand its true effect.

Get that Pokeball rolling.

Marie Goldstein (@ThePreppyMAG) is a social marketing manager at 360i where she focuses on innovation and strategic thinking.

This story first appeared in the July 25, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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