What Pokémon Go Teaches Us
about Viral Marketing

By now you’re probably aware of the current cultural phenomenon ‘Pokémon Go’ – a humble app game with a simple idea behind it, that has taken the world by storm over the past week through viral marketing. It seems at first that its instant success is credited solely to 90’s nostalgia, and rapid word-of-mouth spread, so what can brands who don’t already have a strong presence in pop culture learn from Pokémon Go’s marketing success?

Well, before we can analyse this, we need to make sure you’re up to date with what Pokémon Go actually is. For a quick rundown, head to BBC News to get the facts.

So now that we’ve got the basics out of the way – what can we learn from Pokémon Go’s success? Well first of all, it’s always good to have a strong brand behind you. Pokémon has been wildly popular since its Nintendo game and subsequent TV shows, movies, and merchandise began in the 90’s, a popularity that has endured throughout the years through a strong brand and some crazy cute little pocket monsters.

Pokémon Go has the advantage of tapping into some serious 90’s nostalgia, as well as hitting the younger market with a brand that’s proven it provides fun no matter what decade you grew up. So why on earth would we be able to learn something from Pokémon Go? Not all of us are blessed with brands that have decades of success behind them, and certainly not the power of virtual reality gaming. But there is still something to learn from the viral marketing that Pokémon Go used ever-so cleverly.

  1. Make sure your brand is relevant, and aware of its target market

Pokémon Go knew how to market its product because it new who was going to use it the most: some seriously sentimental smart-phone wielding 20 year olds. With this awareness they knew exactly how to market to them – by not marketing to them. The youth of today has an ever-increasing awareness of advertising efforts, and therefore social and word-of-mouth marketing works best. This doesn’t mean brands hoping to tap into this market need to rely on friends telling friends. Pokémon Go found itself being talked about across social media by nobody’s as well as big players in the social media field. Youtubers were doing prediction videos as far back as a year ago, and now that the game has dropped, everyone from Demi Lovato to local police stations are posting their own pictures and insights on the game. For brands who don’t already have a strong pop culture presence, paying social influencers to talk about your product is already a tried-and-true method to copy Pokémon Go’s success.

  1. If you’re using viral marketing, make sure your product is accessible

What made sure the success of Pokémon Go was swift and unstoppable, was the accessibility of the app. Sure, there have been a few crashes due to the sheer number of users, but otherwise the game has shown itself to have an easy interface, and accessibility everywhere. If you’re wanting to go viral with your campaign, then you need to make sure that some kid with an iPhone in the middle of nowhere is able to use your product, and Pokémon Go did just that. It’s easy to use, and the virtual reality functions worldwide. So even if your product isn’t a VR game aimed at literally everyone, there’s something to learn from that. Before putting your product out there and spending megabucks on marketing, make sure you’ve put it through its paces. Making sure it functions easily, effectively, and accessibly is going to ensure it doesn’t go to waste.

  1. Make your product viral friendly

One of the reasons Pokémon Go has gained so much traction online is its virtual reality function. When catching Pokémon you’re able to see the current setting you’re in, like you’re looking through a camera, except there will be a cute little Pikachu (or more likely Zubat) sitting there in front of you. This makes for great viral marketing, as people scramble to post their funny or interesting pictures from their Pokémon Go adventures. For example, even I got amongst it last night when my partner found a Zubat chilling next to me during our walk.


Even if your product isn’t an augmented reality app game that is cashing in on rampant 90’s nostalgia, your brand could likely consider one or many of these marketing and product techniques to make the most out of viral marketing, and youth engagement with online activities. When it comes to marketing opportunities, you’ve gotta catch ‘em all!

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