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Content Marketing Lessons for the Pokémon Go Era

By any measure, Pokémon Go has been an unprecedented global phenomenon. The gaming application, which is available as a free download, recently surpassed Twitter in daily users on its way to becoming the biggest mobile app release in history. Citibank analysts predict that the game’s developer, Niantic, will earn $750 million in revenue this year from its digital creation. Perhaps most impressively, it has become perhaps the only video game in history to get users young and old up off the couch and into the nearest city park, actively seeking out, capturing, and training adorable little monsters which can only be located through the camera lens of a mobile device. Nothing quite like it has ever hit the app market before.

As intriguing as the social and technological implications of Pokémon Go’s success might be, there are important lessons to be learned from this smash hit for marketing content developers, as well. A perfect storm of innovation, familiarity, and ease of use has propelled the game well past the best-case scenario for a typical app release and into iconic, watershed-moment territory. There may be no replicating its immediate and historic rise into the popular culture, but by studying the elements that have make Pokémon Go one of the most successful app releases in history, content marketers can apply some of the things that made its launch so successful to a wide range of clients, products, and audiences. Here are four important lessons that Pokémon Go can teach content marketers:

4. Timing is Everything It’s tempting to believe that Pokémon Go would have blown up into a pop phenomenon no matter when it was released. A closer look reveals, however, that the game’s launch date was carefully planned. Pokémon Go arrived during summer break, when most school-aged children have plenty of time to hit the streets hunting for Pokémon during the day. Longer daylight hours mean that adults and kids alike can scour the neighborhood for more hours per day.

Any other time of year, the app launch could have been a mild success, at best. Its explosion illustrates how important timing can be to creating an effective content strategy. The marketers behind Pokémon Go calculated the optimum conditions necessary to enjoy the game and launched it on a date that maximized those factors.

3. Nostalgia Sells

The Pokémon phenomenon began as a decidedly low-tech affair, emerging as a popular trading card game in the late ‘90s. Nintendo capitalized on the cards’ popularity with successful portable video game releases in the years that followed, but in recent years, the Pokémon brand had more or less run out of steam completely. Rather than scrapping it, though, Nintendo found a way to pair the brand with modern technology in order to repurpose it for new audiences.

It takes a major investment in time and energy to create an entirely new brand for the launch of an app utilizing new and unfamiliar tech. Instead of spending its resources creating new characters, promoting them, and building interest, though Nintendo opted to revisit a brand that was already a household name. Leveraging that proven, existing asset allowed the company to save time and money and position the new product with a better chance of acceptance. Put mildly, this marketing tactic worked! The nostalgic tug of the Pokémon brand was instrumental in getting users to try out a totally new and unfamiliar kind of game.

2. Augmented Reality is Now an Actual Reality “Augmented Reality” is the name of the novel gameplay mechanics utilized by Pokémon Go. Essentially, it superimposes digital creations on to our view of the “real world.” It’s not a brand-new technology, but Pokémon Go represents by far its most successful adoption by a mass audience. And it’s only the beginning.

Look for many more social and gaming apps to incorporate augmented reality into their offerings in the very near future. Already, Snapchat has experimented with augmented reality technology by including filters that allow users to digitally overlay animal faces and cartoon accessories on to their faces. The unprecedented growth in usage for both Snapchat and Pokémon Go prove that augmented reality is resonating with consumers’ fickle tastes. It’s a trend that is important for your content marketing team to understand and stay on top of.

1. Great Content is Still King

The biggest secret to Pokémon Go’s success isn’t really a secret. Pokémon Go has become one of the biggest app releases in history because it’s a truly fun game to play for people of all ages and interests. What’s more, it is startlingly novel. Content developers that invest the time and resources into producing something that’s truly creative give themselves a higher ceiling for success than those that adhere strictly to what has worked in the past. The game was so addictive and new that Niantic didn’t have to do much more promotion than simply Tweeting that the game was available for free download. Word of mouth took care of the rest.

Offering great content is about producing something that is different and better than what’s already being consumed—even if it centers around a 20-year-old brand. That’s an important lesson that should give content creators everywhere hope!

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