3 ways brand managers can jump on ‘Pokemon Go’

The viral app is making headlines as more and more consumers are getting caught up in the game. Here’s how a grocer got involved—and how your organization can, too.

It was hard not to get swept up in the sensation of Pokemon Go this week.

You likely either saw people out playing it—holding up their cell phones as they walked or ran down the street—or you heard people talking about it on social media. Pokemon Go fever came on fast—the free app almost instantly became the most-downloaded free iPhone app and the top-grossing iPhone app in the U.S.

It reminds me of the fervor that surrounded the early days of Twitter, when real-world tweet-ups happened regularly among the tech-savvy early adopters who “got” the social network long before it became mainstream. This is perhaps fitting, given that Pokemon Go has just surpassed Twitter’s 65 million active users.

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Naturally, many national media outlets covered the phenomenon. Anything that got typically reclusive gamers out walking, running and biking was sure to make national news.

Soon, businesses and brands began to take notice, too. So what about brand managers—can they, or should they, join in the Pokemon Go craze? Yes, but only if you can do it well.

Early adopter: Jungle Jim’s International Market

Jungle Jim’s International Market, a unique grocer in Cincinnati, was the first corporate entity we saw hop on the Pokemon Go bandwagon, and its staff did a remarkable job. Just a few days after the U.S. launch of the app, Jungle Jim’s released a customized map of Pokémon Go targets—both Pokestops and a Pokemon gym—in their store.

Would avid users have been able to find this information on their own? Yes, but that’s not the point. Jungle Jim’s recognized the instant popularity of this game, realized the store was a hotspot for players and decided to welcome and embrace the experience.

It would be easy to imagine a more conservative shopping destination possibly taking a different approach—either ignoring the game or possibly even banning it from being played on premises. That reaction would likely be a better fit for an upscale, slightly older shopping crowd.

Jungle Jim’s knows its audience, has a sense of fun (How many supermarkets feature a monorail on site?) and moved swiftly to show support of Pokemon Go and its players. Others clearly appreciated the gesture, too, as the company’s Facebook post had more than 100 engagements and 63 shares as of this post.

Pokémon Go tips for brand managers

Does it make sense for your organization to play along? It might—but only if you meet the following three crucial factors:

1. Audience. Is your audience playing Pokemon Go? If you’re targeting millennials or younger consumers, the answer is probably yes. If your audience is slightly older but tends to like videogames and tech fads, the answer might still be yes.

Know your audience well, and let them be your guide, rather than following the next shiny app or toy that comes along. If you’re a location-based retailer, watch the behavior of your shoppers. You’ll know pretty quickly if Pokemon monsters—and their hunters/trainers—have taken up residence at your shop.

2. Speed. Can your company or brand move fast, as Jungle Jim’s did, and get into the game while it’s still timely and relevant? If not, it’s better to sit this one out than to appear slow and stodgy.

For large corporations, it can be tough to move nimbly enough to make the most of a rapidly emerging cultural phenomenon. Here, I’d do what I could with custom social media graphics or other fun visuals that show you are Pokemon-friendly, even if you can’t go all in.

3. Relevance. Is there a way for you to tie your brand to the game in a smart, fun and meaningful way—perhaps by providing a map to Pokemon Go targets at or near your location? Don’t just put out a Tweet stating, “We play Pokemon Go, too!” and expect your audience to notice or care. Engage in a smart, authentic, relevant way that makes sense for both your brand and the game’s players—or take a pass. We’ve seen several police stations hitting on this “relevance” factor since the game took over, sharing images of officers with various Pokemon critters to remind players to be safe and look both ways before setting out in search of their targets.

What other companies or brands have you seen jumping on the Pokemon Go bandwagon? Please offer your Pokemon Go tips and stories in the comments below.

Lara Kretler is the vice president of FrazierHeiby. A version of this post originally appeared on the firm’s blog.


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