Gotta Catch ‘Em All: The Captivating PR of Pokemon Go

If asked to predict a major unifying event for Generations X, Y and Z, most people would have said something along the lines of a national crisis, the death of a trans-generational musician or a presidential election.

If asked to predict a major unifying event for Generations X, Y and Z, most people would have been inclined to say something along the lines of a national crisis, the death of a trans-generational musician or a presidential election.

It is unlikely that anyone would’ve predicted Pokemon Go to bring those of all ages together, and so quickly–unless you are late-1990s New York Times critic Anita Gates. Even Nintendo, the creative genius behind the brand, never thought it would see Pokemon make a comeback as presently witnessed.

Pokemon Go is the newest addition to the Pokemon franchise. The game is a free application available for smartphones. Players are able to create their own avatars and travel around their neighborhoods catching the Pokemon at various, random locations. Yes, that’s right–their neighborhoods. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game, where the location on the screen is exactly the scenery seen in the “real world,” with a Pokemon added on the screen, brought to life by Google spinoff Niantic.

One of the first reasons Pokemon Go is already incredibly successful is that it was launched at a crossroads for all three generations that it impacted in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Generation X experienced the first wave surge of handheld gaming, via Game Boy. Generation Y embraced the television series, movies and card game component. And Generation Z has received the residual effects of both gaming and media, including games for Nintendo DS and 3DS and newer movies still being released once per year.

The release of Pokemon Go ties together the childhoods of Gen Xers and millennials, and the current realities of Generation Z kids–hence why Nintendo’s market capital has increased to $42 billion since the game’s release, according to Fortune.

Aside from timing the release of Pokemon Go perfectly, Nintendo and Niantic have created a marketing frenzy for landmarks and stores around the world. Within the game, certain locations are dubbed “Pokestops,” where users can reload their Pokeballs, find other goodie, and enter trainer gyms to train Pokemon against opponents and move up skill levels.

These locations are real, physical places, and for most, are causing surges in tourism (and unfortunately, even some accidents). Local coffee shops, restaurants and monuments have seen an influx of visitors in the passed week alone, spiking sales for their products. Some are even offering special deals for Pokemon Go players, such as “buy one, get one free” offers or discounts on meals, according to The New York Times.

Public-relations professionals can gain some insight from this borderline sensational game:

  • As the game encourages players to step out into their neighborhoods, explore and meet people, the same goes for PR–network yourself constantly.
  • Follow up on your goals, just as you would follow a Pokemon around to eventually capture it; besides, completing your goals will only help you “level up.”
  • PR firms always like to be on the cusp of the new and now; take a note from Pokemon Go and keep tabs on the augmented reality industry, it appears to be the new frontier.

In the future, more companies will look for ways to unite multiple generations, instead of aiming for just one target market. PR among games like Pokemon Go is just about to take off–company sponsorships of gyms and Pokestops are already being requested in hopes of increasing publicity, business and name recognition.

The viral nature of Pokemon Go has made businesses more interested in being a part of the game, leading to a desire to be featured in the augmented reality world, even hoping that Nintendo and Niantic will place a rare Pokemon near their location to draw large crowds.

Pokemon Go is just the beginning of augmented reality, which has been on the horizon for PR professionals for a short while now. Last year, Google revealed its virtual reality “goggles,” Cardboard, a huge leap for it in terms of publicity. Virtual reality and augmented reality are the new frontier, and Nintendo and Niantic’s game is proving so.

As a millennial, I am a witness to the evolution of Pokemon (no pun intended). From playing the video games with my friends to going to the movies with my family to attend the premiere of Pokemon: The First Movie, I’ve seen the brand grow and also seen its fan base deduced to a cult following. With the recent release of Pokemon Go, its cult following has rejoiced, millennials can indulge in a blast from the past and businesses are taking advantage of the game’s profitable side effects–viral lessons learned.

Curious, I downloaded the app sometime last month. Needless to say, the graphics are crisp, there is minimal buffering time and it is almost designed for those already familiar with the Pokemon games, leaving the user with little instructions and leaving them to their own instincts–another reason it seems to resonate across the three generations the brand has affected most.

Pokemon Go has caused a phenomenon in the few weeks it has been available to the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, with hopes to expand its global markets. What can public relations and marketing professionals take away from such a trending game such as Pokemon Go?

Businesses must constantly be forward-thinking, aiming to utilize pop culture’s current and future trends before the competitor does. If they miss out on the opportunity, it will most likely be hard to hop on the bandwagon. Pokemon Go is still fresh and developing, giving businesses the opportunity to join in on the craze before it ends–if it ever does.

Joan Daly is a junior account executive at Gotham PR.