Acquiring Traffic

What Pokémon Go Means For Franchises

Eli Robinson
Wednesday, August 17 2016

Pokemon Go

If you were able to transport back to July 5th, 2016, you would see a world that had long forgotten about Pokémon. The Japanese cartoon characters that dominated in the 90s and early 2000s had been long gone.

But then on July 6th, Pokémon Go was launched.

For a full look at what the game actually is and why it’s so popular, check out this article here. Essentially, you’re a Pokémon trainer walking around the world trying to catch as many and as advanced Pokémon as possible. It works by using a combination of Google Maps, your phone’s camera, and some features in the app to actually recreate a new world for you. The world around you is the Pokémon world.

Getting accurate statistics for how popular Pokémon Go is can be quite difficult because it’s growing so quickly. But here are some mind-blowing facts:

  • Pokémon Go was the most downloaded app in the first week in the history of the Apple App Store

  • 11% of Androids have Pokémon Go downloaded on them

  • There are ~20 million active users every day in the U.S.

And the list goes on and on.


Franchises Are Already Getting Involved

The biggest deal that’s been announced so far between Pokémon Go and a business is actually a franchise!

McDonald's Pokemon Go

McDonald’s has cut a deal in a Japan to have its restaurants as Pokémon Gyms (a place that you want to go to in the game.)

McDonalds Japan will be the first paying sponsor of Pokémon GO when the game launches in that country, by hosting 3,000 of its outlets as ‘gyms’ for the game, or battle locations. Gyms are typically high-profile public places like train stations or churches. The trade-off for McDonalds is self explanatory: Pokémon GO players find themselves walking through the doors of the golden arches to do battle, and decide to buy a burger while they’re there.

It’s a step up from a long and troubled history of so-called location-based advertising, where your smartphone is pinged with ads for a real-world business or service that’s nearby. While most marketers believe location-based ads are “the most exciting” mobile opportunity for 2016, according to one study, the practice has yet to truly take off.

What’s Really Going on Here?

You don’t need to know much more than the fact that Nintendo (one of the game’s owners) added $8 Billion in market cap the first week the game was live to know that this is a big deal.

But I’m going to argue that this is far more important than Nintendo, Pokémon, Google Maps or anyone else that seems to be the big “winner” here.

Every once in a while, you just want to turn to someone and say “the future is here.” That’s how I feel right now. I think it’s a feeling similar to when we get an actual autonomous car or a robot that runs our house. Pokémon Go is the first mainstream example of how humans are getting digitally connected to the world around us.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Video games have always been associated with the lack of movement. You may call a gamer a couch potato or at the very least lazy. Video games have long been the enemies of parents looking for their kids to be active. Now you can have both! For the first time, playing a digital game means interacting with everything in the world.Video Gamer

  • We’re simply not going to know what a “phone” is coming up pretty quickly. Don’t get me wrong, having a mobile device that allows you to communicate with others seems here to stay. But how much of your phone usage is actually for the core phone features?

  • Reality Bites

    Who needs reality? I mean, it wasn’t just the 1994 rom-com-dram that thought that “Reality Bites.” Pokémon Go has showed that something as simple as a commute, sitting at your desk, or walking from place to place can be FUN! (My brother caught a Blastoise on his way home from work one day and was absolutely beside himself!) The ability to take some of the most monotonous parts of life and spice them up has unreal implications. Are people simply going to be happier? (Ok. Probably not.)


Some Thoughts for Franchises

Contrary to what my grandfather may say if he saw Pokémon Go in action, society is not falling apart at the seams.

So in the short run, companies like franchises won’t feel the seismic shift signaled by the advent of Pokémon Go.

But there are three things you need to have top of mind:

Location based advertising

  1. Location based advertising may actually work. I wasn’t in the franchise development world when Foursquare was popular, but it’s easy to imagine me getting very excited by location based ads. Being able to message to people when they’re actually at or near one of your locations is huge. Image being able to push a notification to someone’s phone about opening one of your franchises simultaneous to them being a customer? It’d be pretty effective if you ask me.

  2. It’s more important than ever to have an excellent understanding of who you want your next franchisees to be. When I speak with franchises like you about who makes a good franchisee, rarely do I hear demographic descriptions like age and gender. As the digital age matures, different demographics will continue to use more and more different media. Gone are the days of running a radio or newspaper ad and reaching the entirety of your target market. You need to decide who you want your next of franchisees to be and then work to reach them specifically. If you’re looking for 25-35 year old men, an app like Pokémon Go could be exactly what you’re looking for.

  3. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. It is time to completely scrap any “desktop” strategy that you may have. With every day that passes, phones and tablets are taking over the world. When you‘re constructing your digital strategy, you can no longer think about the person sitting at their computer. It’s just not reflective of what’s going on in the world. When’s the last time you heard about a desktop innovation? Pokémon Go is simply the latest mind-blowing application of mobile hardware. Who knows what’s coming next?

Second Derivative

I once had a co-worker of mine posit that the “second derivative of change in the world is positive.” For those not as Calculus-inclined, he was saying that the world is changing faster and faster. Pokémon Go is just the latest reminder of that.

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