Pokémon Going Social

Last Sunday at one in the morning, I found myself in the very last place you would expect to find anyone on a hot summer’s evening: my college campus. What’s even stranger is that the campus was relatively busy.

Pokemon GO example image

Rats in the kitchen are NEVER good…and this one looks angry!

The only reason my friends and I (as well as all the other people we encountered that night) were on campus was to hunt down virtual Pokémon using the brand new mobile game, “Pokémon GO.” I don’t really like to use the expression “taking the world by storm,” because it so rarely is true, but if anything were taking the country by storm right now, it’d definitely be Pokémon GO. In the game, you create your own character who is then dropped into a virtual map of the space around you (thanks to the power of Google Maps) and shows you where virtual Pokémon are “hiding.” Once you find these Pokémon, you can catch them using items found at various landmarks in the real world such as art pieces, religious institutions and historical locations. You can then train the Pokémon you catch and use them to battle other players at “gyms” across the country.

But why? Why is this a thing that people find fun? Why is this something people gather for? What makes Pokémon GO such a phenomenon, and what can other brands take from it?

First of all, the game appeals to a wide variety of people. Whenever you want to put out a new product, the most important thing you have to do is identify your target audience. In this case, Pokémon GO has a huge target audience because Pokémon is a brand that can appeal to children while also appealing to a large group of millennials who grew up with Pokémon video games, cartoons and movies.

In addition to this, Pokémon is recognizable brand. No matter who you are or what your experience with Pokémon has been, it’s almost guaranteed that nearly every person in the country has heard of the brand in some way, shape or form.

Pokémon GO also gives people a chance to interact with both the real world and the virtual world. While people catch Pokémon on their phones, they can also talk to people around them doing the same thing. I talked to a dozen different people that Sunday night that I had never met before in my life. I saw people walking around in the same place I was doing something that I could relate to and talk to them about.

As similar brands will surely rush to make clones of Pokémon GO, none will be as successful without understanding how it became so popular and why it succeeds the way it does.

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