Pokémon GO: Built on Collective Memories & Emotions

Having spent a good part of my childhood in Hong Kong, I remember being excited every Mid-Autumn Festival, because I would have the chance to go to the park and hang out with other kids until late at night, roaming around and showing off our awesome blown up lanterns attached to a plastic tube handle.

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It’s been a long while since I’ve participated in this especially because I moved away from the city for a number of years, but it has always been something I reminisce about every time the festive period came around. It is undoubtedly part of the Collective Memories (集體回憶) of all Hong Kong children. Ahh, the good old memories.

Fast forward to today, Day One of the launch of Pokémon Go in Hong Kong. Being the typical millennial that I am, I decided to explore the streets of my neighbourhood to do some hunting and test out the game.

Everywhere I walked were people with their heads down focused on their phones, some exploring solo, some as couples and some in groups of friends. In fact, when I reached the park opposite my block, I noticed that I was reliving my childhood moments from Mid-Autumn. Except this time around instead of lanterns dangling off plastic tubes, it was brightly lit smartphones attached to portable powerbanks. And the ‘kids’, well, are probably the same kids that I would have hung out with some decades ago.

As I was washed with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, this strange correlation made me realise one thing. The game’s success is built on Collective Memories.

For those that have played it you’d know it’s overly simple. Open the app, walk around until you see a Pokémon appear on your screen, swipe Pokéballs at it until it’s ‘captured’. Repeat.

The game’s popularity is not because of the gameplay itself, nor is it the graphics or storyline (what storyline?). It is because of the childhood memories of the the millennials, and the sense of nostalgia and belonging the game brings. I myself reconnected with a friend I have not seen for several years just because we happened to be playing Pokémon Go in same park by chance, and I also noticed strangers on the street connecting with one another over the game. It’s the feeling of ‘hey I know what you’re up to, you’re awesome too’, and the ability to bond and be a part of this community.

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The result?

Within three days of its release, Pokémon Go attracted more users than Twitter.

As of mid-July 2016, the game attracted just under 21 million daily active users in the US, surpassing Candy Crush saga’s audience of 20 million and making it the biggest mobile game in US history.

Also share prices skyrocketed for Nintendo, albeit being a case of mistaken identity. But that’s another story.

Key takeaway for your business?

It is estimated that millennials will be spending $200 billion annually by 2017. So if you wanna be the very best, like no one ever was (please excuse the reference), you need a thorough understanding of their behaviour.

Pokémon Go is a golden example of how millennials consume products. They act on feelings and emotions. Genuine connections with a brand are more convincing for them than any sales or marketing tactics that they are targeted for.

So find relevance in your product for your target market, activate emotional responses. Be convincing in your communications, and build genuine relationships with them.

That’s the only way to catch ’em all.

Data should NOT define your marketing strategy

Now before all the big data advocates out there challenge me with arguments for the importance of data in marketing, let me just clarify one thing: I myself am very big on data. In fact, every project I enter into, my first two questions are always: 1) “How are we tracking this?” and 2) “How are we using the data to improve?”. So believe me, the purpose of this post is not to tell you to stop using data.

With the aid of technology advancements collecting data is now easier than ever, from every phone tap to even the slight twitch of an eye while browsing a website, marketers now have access to all facets of consumer behaviour along their buying journey.

Companies are fast realising and leveraging on these opportunities by shifting large portions of their marketing budget towards the acquisition of analytical software, and even building entire new departments for this sole purpose. So much so that data has become a single focal point to drive marketing forward.

Yes, data’s now a crucial part of strategic marketing, but should never be the ONLY determining factor of your strategies. Here’s 3 simple reasons why:

1. The traditional stuff worked before (and still do).

Television, radio, billboards, print – the traditional methods of advertising were purchased based on estimated viewership and circulation, and little to no empirical data to support their spending. Without direct linkage from an ad to the conversion, accurate ROI was hard to prove. Yet these were the main ways companies interacted with their audiences.

Who hasn’t seen a Coca Cola billboard and felt thirsty before? There’s no denying that these traditional methods were, and still are, effective ways to get brand messages across. While success is harder to measure, they should not be overlooked in the digital age.

2. Consumers are humans. With emotions.

We can spend all our time looking through data to find patterns and leverage on them to maximise our ROI until we reach the point of diminishing returns. However, all it takes is a slight change in consumer sentiment to send all our patterns out of whack.

Consumers are emotional human beings, and should never be seen as just a big pile of data waiting to be deciphered.

Don Draper may be fictional, but if there’s anything we can take away from Mad Men, it is this: “Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness. And you know what happiness is? It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”

For a campaign to be successful we must connect to our target audience on the deeper emotional level, identifying a need or desire and finding a point of relevance to communicate our product as the solution. Use emotions to create a bond between our brand and our customers, so that even when sentiments change, they will still come to us to satisfy that underlying need.

3. Don’t kill creativity by repeating history.

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is formed.

Keyword: new.

Yes, collect the data and use them to make decisions. Just be mindful that all that does is tell us to repeat something that was done before based on higher performance. Historically.

One cannot innovate if we keep following the same routines, so as marketers we must always challenge ourselves to look away from what’s been done, and identify whatelse can be done to take our campaigns up another notch.

Conclusion

Data analytics have opened up many new ways to refine our marketing strategies, but should not be the defining factor of all our activities. To stay on top of the game and be resilient to changes, we must understand the lingering success of traditional media, stay true to our target markets’ craving for real human connections, and keep an open mind for creativity.

Trust your gut instinct, and support it with data.