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Gotta Catch ‘Em All: The Captivating PR of Pokémon Go

captivating PR, cultural phenomenon, generational unity, Gotham PR, Joan Daly, Marketing, Millennial trends, Pokémon franchise, Pokémon GO, Pr, Public relations, Virtual realityBy Joan Daly, Junior Account Executive, Gotham PR

If asked to predict a major unifying event for Generations X, Y and Z, most people would have been inclined to say something along the lines of a national crisis, death of a trans-generational musician, or a presidential election.

It is unlikely that anyone would’ve predicted Pokémon Go to bring those of all ages together, and so quickly—unless you are late nineties New York Times critic Anita Gates. Even Nintendo, the creative genius behind the brand, never thought they’d see Pokémon make a comeback as presently witnessed.

Pokémon Go is the newest addition to the Pokémon franchise. The game is a free app available for smartphones. Players are able to create their own avatar and travel around their neighborhood catching the Pokémon at various, random locations. Yes, that’s right—their neighborhoods. Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game, where the location on the screen is exactly the scenery seen in the “real world,” with a Pokémon added on the screen, brought to life by the Google-spinoff Niantic.

One of the first reasons Pokémon Go is already incredibly successful—in just under 2 weeks since its initial release—is that it was launched at a crossroads for all three generations that it impacted in the late nineties and early 2000s.

Generation X experienced the first wave surge of handheld gaming, via Game Boy. Generation Y embraced the television series, movies, and card game component. And Generation Z has received the residual effects of both gaming and media, including games for Nintendo DS and 3DS and newer movies still being released once a year.

The release of Pokémon Go ties together the childhoods of Gen X-ers and Millennials, and the current realities of Generation Z kids. Hence why Nintendo’s market capital has increased to $42 billion since the games release, according to Fortune.

Aside from timing the release of Pokémon Go perfectly, Nintendo and Niantic have created a marketing frenzy for landmarks and stores around the world. Within the game, certain locations are dubbed “Pokéstops,” where users can reload their Pokéballs, find other goodies, and enter trainer gyms to train Pokémon against opponents and move up skill levels.

These locations are real, physical places, and for most, are causing surges in tourism (and unfortunately, even some accidents). Local coffee shops, restaurants, and monuments have seen an influx of visitors in the passed week alone, spiking sales for their products. Some are even offering special deals for Pokémon Go players, such as “buy one get on free” offers or discounts on meals, according to the New York Times.

Public relations professionals can gain some insight from this borderline sensational game.

  • As the game encourages players to step out into their neighborhoods, explore, and meet people, the same goes for PR – network yourself constantly
  • Follow up on your goals, just as you would follow a Pokémon around to eventually capture it; besides, completing your goals will only help you “level up”
  • PR firms always like to be on the cusp of the new and now; take a note from Pokémon Go and keep tabs on the augmented reality industry, it appears to be the new frontier

In the future, more companies will look for ways to unite multiple generations, instead of aiming for just one target market. Public relations amongst games like Pokémon Go is just about to take off—company sponsorships of gyms and Pokéstops are already being requested in hopes of increasing publicity, business and name recognition.

The viral nature of Pokémon Go has made businesses more interested in being a part of the game, leading to a desire to be featured in the augmented reality world, even hoping that Nintendo and Niantic will place a rare Pokémon near their location to draw large crowds.

Pokémon Go is just the beginning of augmented reality, which has been on the horizon for public relations professionals for a short while now. Last year, Google revealed it’s virtual reality “goggles,” Cardboard, a huge leap for them in terms of publicity. Virtual reality and augmented reality are the new frontier, and Nintendo and Niantic’s game is proving so.

As a Millennial, I am a witness to the evolution of Pokémon (no pun intended). From playing the video games with my friends to going to the movies with my family to attend the premiere of Pokémon: The First Movie, I’ve seen the brand grow and also seen its fan base deduced to a cult following. With the recent release of Pokémon Go, it’s cult following has rejoiced, millennials can indulge in a blast from the past, and businesses are taking advantage of the game’s profitable side effects—viral lessons learned.

Curious, I downloaded the app sometime last week. Needless to say, the graphics are crisp, there is minimal buffering time, and it is almost designed for those already familiar with the Pokémon games, leaving the user with little instructions and leaving them to their own instincts, another reason it seems to resonate across the three generations the brand has affected most.

Pokémon Go has caused a phenomenon in less than 2 weeks of being available to the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, with hopes to expand its global markets. What can public relations and marketing professionals take away from such a trending game such as Pokémon Go?

Businesses must constantly be forward thinking, aiming to utilize pop culture’s current and future trends before the competitor does. If they miss out on the opportunity, it will most likely be hard to hop on the bandwagon. Pokémon Go is still fresh and developing, giving businesses the opportunity to join in on the craze before it ends—if it ever does.

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