The Branding Genius of Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go, a free mobile gaming app that uses augmented reality to allow users to catch, train and battle Pokemon in the ‘real world’, is the newest app to take the world by storm. It has been an unprecedented success for the Nintendo brand, which has been struggling to compete in today’s mobile gaming market. While Pokemon Go is gaining popularity and increasing Nintendo’s stock price, it is also causing controversy due to the dangerous situations players are facing.  

Back in 2014, Google Maps released an April Fools announcement stating that it was making a game that combined Google Maps and Pokemon and the joke went viral. That was all that was needed for mobile gaming developer Niantic, Nintendo and Pokemon Co. to go to work on Pokemon Go. For those who do not know, the game utilizes augmented reality to combine real-life surroundings and computer-generated graphics. Through a phone or tablet, a user can look at their surroundings and find Pokemon in their vicinity. In order to find more Pokemon, users must actually walk around to look for them.

Pokemon Ash With Blue Sky

The Brand Power of Pokemon

The marketing and branding behind the concept of this game is borderline genius. Pokemon, a popular and beloved video game that later expanded into a popular card game and anime, was released in 1996. It is one of the perfect games to adapt for this type of technology.

Using augmented reality to create a ‘real life’ version of Pokemon is a great tactic that Nintendo was in need of. Nintendo has struggled to keep up in today’s world of gaming, with the Wii failing to truly compete with Playstation and Xbox. The Pokemon name alone, which commands a large amount of nostalgia and affection, has made the mobile game instantly and wildly popular with little to no paid marketing. With a combination of existing brand equity and word-of-mouth buzz, Pokemon Go became the top free game on Apple’s App Store and has more active daily users than Twitter since its release on July 6.


Via my iPhone

Branding and reputation go hand-in-hand. For a brand to become as popular as Pokemon, it must have a solid reputation that is associated with positive press. One of the reasons that Pokemon Go was able to get away with little marketing effort is because of the reputation the Pokemon franchise already had. While it is true that Pokemon’s popularity has been decreasing in recent years, combining its brand power with modern technology like augmented reality rocketed the aging brand back to relevance among modern gamers.

The Downside

Though popular, the game possesses drawbacks to its players’ well-being. The associated safety hazards have resulted in many problems in its first week of availability. From robberies, car crashes and dead bodies, the need to physically visit random, and sometimes unsafe, locations while playing has proven to be hazardous to users’ safety. If people continue to get hurt while playing, the game has the possibility of being shut down and removed.

Maintaining Momentum – “Gotta catch ‘em All”

In order to keep the momentum going, Niantic must step up the game’s safety precautions and increase in-app purchase possibilities. Right now, users can buy pokeballs, lures and incense to help “catch ‘em all.”  One of the reasons the app became so wildly popular so quickly is because it is free, so leaving it free is crucial. In-app purchases like expansion packs that allow users to battle other trainers directly, or trade pokemon among friends, is an alternative way to increase the game’s revenue.

Whether this game is a one hit wonder or the next big thing, we can’t be sure. What we do know is that augmented reality is here to stay and it has opened the door for countless innovative  games and marketing efforts.

What are your thoughts on Pokemon Go and why do you think it has become this popular? Leave me your comments down below.

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