“Is it me, or are there more people glued to their phones than ever?”
…You might have asked yourself when out and about these last couple of weeks.

Right now, we’re experiencing a truly modern day phenomenon.
And it’s all because of an app.

The figures are incredible; in under two weeks more than 35 million people downloaded it.

And it’s got people hooked.

It’s not an app that introduces a ‘how did we get by without it?’ practical tool like Google Maps. It’s not another outlet for seeing what your friends have been up to. Heck, it’s not even a dating app.

Nope. The app that’s got millions of us gripped is, quite simply, a game.

Pokémon Go.

With the data already far outperforming the likes of other ‘viral’ games such as Candy Crush, the way in which users engage with this overnight success presents an unmissable opportunity for all businesses, as we’ll go onto explain.

But first…

What’s it all about?

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality app – one that loads a fictional game onto the backdrop of real life.

It reincarnates the original Pokémon game which was a staple of every Nintendo Game Boy in the early noughties.

Only now, players carry out their mission in the real world.
The aim is to catch as many Pokémon as you can by roaming the streets to find them.

Here we are attempting to catch a Zubat in the office:

Some Pokémon are rarer and more valuable than others, so when they materialize, it’s a race to see who gets there first.

Which is what happened in New York recently.

A rare Vaporeon made an appearance in Central Park. Because of the sheer number of people using the app, what happened next was quite astonishing.

Hundreds – and I mean hundreds – flocked to find it, causing nothing short of a stampede.

See for yourself:

All for a virtual creature!

Such has been hysteria sparked by Pokémon Go around the world, players in Bosnia have had to be warned to keep off the country’s minefields, while the app’s developers even received a tweet from Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, who asked if he could help fix the servers when Pokémon Go crashed due to unprecedented demand:

Share prices in Nintendo have skyrocketed and Pokémon Go has now surpassed both Twitter and Tinder in its number of daily active users. Hot on the heels of app giants, Snapchat and Google Maps, it has been hailed as the biggest mobile game in US history by data analyst, Survey Monkey Intelligence.

So why has Pokemon GO been so uber-successful?

While it’s great fun to sit back and watch a cultural phenomenon unfold, it’s even more exciting to investigate how it was able to happen.

In Pokémon Go’s case, it is the app’s success in engaging millennials that has allowed it to smash records so magnificently.

No matter how demographically far-reaching an app intends to be in the long term, it is essential that millennials – those aged loosely between 18 and 35 – are brought on side early in order for an app to secure visibility on a scale such that it is on everyone’s radar.

Yet millennials are an audience notoriously tough to crack.

Highly cynical and largely numb to marketing messages, they have been overexposed to advertising throughout their formative years.

To get millennials on side, you must convince them your brand is aligned to their values. The real deal.

Pokémon Go had a head start in this department, since much of the audience in question already associates Pokémon with with warm feelings of nostalgia; trusted in youth and so trusted again in adulthood as a brand representing fun, challenge and conversation.

The genius of the app itself is not only that it taps into this nostalgia, a powerful tool of engagement; it ignites it. Far from a rehash of the original game, by pulling GPS, augmented reality and a physical experience into the picture, players are invited to actually live out the stuff of childhood dreams.

Adding to the appeal is the sociable nature of the game. Players are encouraged to interact when catching Pokémon and ‘gyms’ represent designated locations in which players can congregate.

This intrinsically social side to the game has made it an unavoidable topic of conversation, both online and off.

Indeed, there is much debate online about whether the app is a blessing – getting gamers exercising, socialising and exploring the great outdoors – or a curse –  causing fully grown adults to regress to childish shadows of their usual selves.

The ferocity of arguments in defence of the app shows just how well Pokémon Go has ticked the ‘community’ box – a must for an audience whose generation is used to feeling at home in interest-based online communities.

And as far as marketing goes, The Pokémon Company played a blinder.

There were no bells and whistles. There was, in fact, very little in the way of a build up, releasing quietly in Australia and New Zealand on 6th July, shortly after in the US and then in Canada and much of Europe in following days.

While this might sound like a risk by app’s marketers, what it really shows is a company that understands its audience.

Intentionally or not, by opting for a quiet release and leaving the app to do the talking, The Pokémon Company avoided turning their audience off with a heavy promo campaign and instead made the game infinitely more appealing. Right away it got the audience talking, posting, commenting, sharing and – crucially- downloading.

A fairytale in viral marketing.

So, what can we take from the whirlwind launch of Pokémon Go?

Most importantly, that to succeed in modern business, you need just one thing: a rock solid understanding of your target audience.

Once you have that, you only need use it to inform both your product and the way you present it; the rest will be history.

Pokémon Go statistics breakdown:

  • An estimated 30 million total downloads by 19th July, less than a fortnight after initial launch.

With such a wide reach already, Pokémon Go has the power to influence consumer behaviour on a gigantic scale. That’s why it’s in your interest as a business owner to get involved in the app as soon as you can. Read on for more info.

  • 10.81% daily user penetration level in America just four days after launching there, compared to 1.67% and 0.84% respectively for two of the most popular recent apps, Clash Royale and Slitherio.

This means 10% of all Android device owners in America used Pokémon Go on the fourth day following its release, an astonishing level and speed of proliferation.

  • An estimated $35 million generated in revenue as of 19th July.

The Pokémon Company is raking in revenue via in-app purchases as users pay to expand their arsenal of Pokémon-catching tools. Clearly, there is money to be made from Pokémon Go fans.

  • A whopping 43 minute average usage time as of 8th July, surpassing some of the biggest social media apps.

This is testament to the quality of the game and proves there is substance behind the sky-high download figures. If most users spend the best part of an hour out and about catching Pokémon, there’s a fair chance they’ll stop off for refreshments at a local business along the way…

You can check out real time stats for Pokémon Go via AppInstitute here.

Using Pokémon Go to the advantage of your business

With all the extra people exploring their local areas while playing Pokémon Go, now is the time for retail and leisure businesses to exploit the revitalised footfall.

Some organisations are already taking advantage: churches in the US and now the UK have been jumping on board the craze to encourage more young people through their doors.

The Guardian spoke to businesses in San Diego about their experiences since the app launched.

The doorman of a gentleman’s club said it had got “7 million more people signed up this week than last.”

“The kids come by, they’re like 20 or 25, they just collect their points and move on. But I can see them bringing their dads along to come in for a drink.”

If you’re a business that relies on a healthy footfall, it couldn’t be easier to get Pokémon Go players in the vicinity of your business.

How to get involved

The Pokémon Go map mirrors real life and is scattered with ‘Pokéstops’, hotspots where players can pick up free items to help them catch more Pokémon.

At a Pokéstop, your businesses can purchase a ‘lure’ via the app for usually under $1.

When activated, a lure causes a flurry of Pokémon characters to appear around said Pokéstop and, lo and behold, players will be lured to the area to catch them.

Each lure lasts 30 minutes.

You can buy these bulk and release one after the next to sustain footfall for an extended period of time.

This is known as a ‘lure party’ and you can advertise it as such alongside your company name. Coupling a lure party with some one off discounts would be a prime way to make the most of the event.

Forbes’ Jason DeMers comments: “Restaurant and café owners can particularly benefit from lures, as players will want to hang around for a while, and probably want to buy some snacks or beverages while they do.”

If your business doesn’t have a Pokéstop nearby, all is not lost…

Niantic CEO John Hanke recently confirmed plans to launch sponsored retail locations as part of Pokémon Go in an interview with the Financial Times. That means your business would be able to pay Niantic a few pennies each time a player visits your site.

Pokéstops, lures and sponsored locations aside, you can connect with the droves of Pokémon Go players easily by advertising your business as a pitstop for Pokémon catchers or by putting on a special offer for users of the app.

All things considered, Pokémon Go is a cheap, easy and irresistible marketing opportunity for any small business owner.

Strike while the iron is hot, before lures get more expensive and while players are still eager to engage with others in the midst of the Pokémon Go frenzy.

Have you used Pokémon Go in your business? We’d love to hear how. Comment below or post to our Facebook page to show other business owners how you’ve taken the initiative.