I know what you’re thinking; everyone’s latching on to this phenomenon with their content in a desperate click-bait attempt to get attention. That’s what she’s doing. But hear me out!
I do agree that in the midst of the craziness that is our world right now, between Brexit and terror attacks… well, it can seem a bit surreal that grown adults are chasing retro cartoon characters around the place:
But as the mother of an autistic son, who has spent more days than I care to count desperately trying to get him outside, and then desperately trying to keep him outside where he hates flies, bright sunlight, sand, water, noise, food and just other people in general… don’t tell me that this new craze isn’t going to be an absolute God send to some families (if they could keep the bloody servers working!)
Perfect Pokemon PR Stunts
As much as I do feel that the majority of articles about “What Marketers Can Learn From Pokemon Go” are rubbish - satirically covered in Rich Leigh’s blog post here - the fact remains that there are a few people utilising the trend for PR, and it is actually working well for them.
We can/should learn from anything that works well.
Since I work with and help SMEs, I know lots of local small businesses in particular will wonder how they can jump on the bandwagon in a positive and authentic way.
So here’s my Top 5 PR stunts from the first week of Pokemania:
Martial Artist Pokemon Cosplay Stunt
Professional Mixed-Martial Artist Michael “Venom” Page ensured the video footage of his win over Evangelista Santos went viral when he followed up a final KO blow by putting Ash’s hat on and rolling a ‘Pokeball’ at his opponent, as if to catch him.
LESSON: A little newsjacking creativity in video format, showing personality, can easily become shareable for a person or brand, when the context feels right.
Atlanta Cafe Lures Pokestop Visitors
Huge Cafe in Atlanta took advantage of being conveniently placed between two ‘Pokestops’ (where players can collect new items) by using a budget of $49 to purchase lure modules every 30 minutes - increasing the number and quality of Pokemon that could be caught at their shop.
LESSON: As with Facebook ads or Snapchat geo-filters, digital PR works best when you maximise the brief opportunities that come your way with just a little budget. Paid and earned media don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Sandwich Shop UGC Pokemon Promo
Similar to Huge Cafe, Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop realised they were a bit of a Pokemon hub and utilised this to their promotional advantage by rewarding customers who tweeted about Pokemon they had caught while there.
Using their existing loyalty program mobile app (I blogged about the benefits of apps here) the shop were able to award a free sandwich if someone tweeted about the promotion.
LESSON: Understand how your business fits into the latest trend and then capitalise the opportunities for advocate marketing with customer incentives to encourage local people to market your business for you.
Eye Clinic Humorous Pokemon Sign
The U S of A is one place where funny signs are more commonplace than here in the UK and Ireland (possibly just because we don’t often have signage we can change?)
Anyway, they provide endless hours of fun and Brandon Eye Clinic seems to have been one of the first to hijack the Pokemon theme to encourage more custom!
LESSON: A simple play on words or joke around a current topic on marketing material, signage or social media posts (provided its appropriate) can simply improve positive sentiment towards your brand.
Doughnut Stores Nutella Pokeballs
Australian eatery Doughnut Time join the list of global Pokemon-inspired food creations with their “I Pika Choose You” Nutella-filled Pokeball doughnuts.
Using the famous #GottaCatchEmAll hashtag to get in on current conversations, their creations received massive engagement on Instagram from gaming fans and foodies alike.
LESSON: If you’re involved in anything creative - whether you cook, bake, sew or paint - you have the opportunity to ride bandwagons like this, giving you opportunities for new custom, social sharing and even media coverage.
Future Pokemon Brand Opportunities
Niantic Labs founder John Hanke has confirmed that the game will offer opportunities for sponsored locations in the future.
Its encouraging to see such a global phenomenon actually hold potential for local businesses and high street stores, rather than just big chain brands.
Granted, there have been rumours that the code for the McDonald’s logo has already been found in the Android version of the app - signalling possible big-name sponsorships.
However, if opportunities open to everyone, as they have done on social media channels, then small businesses could eventually become sponsored Pokemon gyms, bringing customers in while training their Pokemon.
As a parent previously-burned by Rovio’s freemium purchase model in Angry Birds, no-one is happier than me to hear that the creators have realised there is more money to be made from brands than from parents!
Crisis PR for Pokemon Go
Of course, all this hype doesn’t come risk-free. There are numerous potential crisis on the horizon for this new realm of Augmented Reality gaming.
The media are already reporting obvious incidents such as muggings at “hot spots” where thieves know young people will be coming with expensive smartphones, right through to dangerous driving while using the app.
But there are more sinister aspects to this type of technology and it will be interesting to see how it is managed.
My initial fear was that young people could be preyed upon by groomers in some of the more remote Pokestops. It seems the dangers are even more serious than that, with reports of teens killed in Florida as they’re mistaken for burglary while catching Pokemon.
LESSON: Brands riding the Pokemon bandwagon will need to keep abreast of changes or issues and read sentiment online for any change to negativity on a wide-spread scale, to protect your own reputation.
PR-ing Pokemon Go
In summary, PR folk like me enjoy seeing what stunts and campaigns are created to newsjack these global trends to maximum effect.
It’s usually big brands with massive marketing teams and in-house graphic designers who win the day.
However the best thing about this one, for me, is that for once it is the low-budget, highly-creative local businesses that are “catching them all!”