Pokemon GO teaches people about inbound marketing

Depending on your age, you might remember the phenomenon that was Pokémon during the early 2000s. Well the addictive pocket monsters have returned in the form of an augmented reality app called Pokémon GO! As a digital marketer, Pokémon GO has sparked more than just a nostalgic interest in me. It can actually teach us a lot about the art of inbound marketing.

To be fair, the Pokémon franchise never really went away. However, it hasn’t been this popular in years. The “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” fever has taken the world by storm (again)!

Wait! What Exactly is Pokémon GO?

Before I dive headfirst into this inbound marketing lesson, I want to provide a brief overview of Pokémon GO for any readers who aren’t millennials. If you’ve already been roaming your neighborhood looking for rare catches and Pokestops, then you can skip this section.

Charizard rendered in Pokemon GO

You really haven’t heard of Pokémon GO??

Pokémon GO is a mobile smartphone app that was released by Niantic, Inc earlier this month. It’s based on the extremely popular series created by Nintendo that has spawned games, cartoon shows and movies.

The app is free to download and play, and it provides a virtual reality experience for players. What this means is that while you’re walking around your neighborhood, you can hold up your phone and see the Pokémon right there in front of you. The developers of this app have made great use of your smartphone’s camera and GPS.

Pokémon GO is inherently social too! Have you noticed groups of people roaming your local park with their phones in hand? Hordes of people have been teaming up to find and catch Pokémon and get some more exercise while they’re at it.

But that’s not why I want to talk about Pokémon GO today. As an inbound marketer, I see a great way to use this pocket monster phenomenon to teach you a few things about inbound marketing.

For a Reward, People Will Jump Through a Hoop (Within Reason)

In our modern world, most people don’t have to rely on walking to get to where they want to go. Given the choice, most wouldn’t choose to walk if they could drive.

We’ve become an increasingly more sedentary culture overall.

One of the expressed desires from developer Niantic was to build a game that encouraged more gamers to be active. As Niantic’s product marketing lead, Archit Bhargava, puts it, their mission is to “build technology that enables adventures on foot.”

Pokémon GO has succeeded in getting more people off their butts and spending time outside. How? They are rewarded with the ability to capture more Pokémon.

After downloading the app, a new trainer will have the opportunity to capture a Pokémon in the near vicinity, as well as test out some of the other mechanics of the game. This gets the hooks in, but soon they’ll find that they need to adventure out into the real world to capture additional Pokémon.

Given the massive success of the app, it would seem that many players are more than willing to put up with some additional walking in order to catch more Pokémon.

This is a valuable lesson that you can apply to your own business. With the right incentive, your target audience will be willing and even happy to take the desired action.

In order to get more people to provide their contact information when they visit your website, you need to know your target audience really well and understand the types of things that they want. With the right type of lead magnet, you’ll create a powerful incentive that will convert more site visitors into leads.

I recommend that you take the time to consider exactly what your desired customers care about. This would be a good time to develop some buyer personas for your business if you haven’t already. Once you know your perfect customer inside and out, it won’t be difficult to develop content that you know will appeal to them. It’s obvious that Niantic knew exactly what would appeal to their target market.

Leveraging A Brand’s Community to Generate Interest in a New Product

Have you seen others posting on social media about their experience with Pokémon GO? Plenty of news feeds have been populated with stories ranging from people finding unexpected things on their search for rare Pokémon to clever videos like this one from the City of Miami Police Department:

The point is Niantic took advantage of Pokémon’s solid community to amplify their message and get the word out both prior to and after they launched Pokémon GO.

This proved extremely successful as buzz was generated amongst the millions of people who were fans in their childhood. The growth of social media also meant that a whole new generation of players were introduced to the franchise.

If you have developed a healthy online community around your brand, you can leverage that to generate interest prior to the launch of new products or services. If done right, fans of your business may then continue to spread the word post-launch.

Chances are you probably don’t have an online community that is as extensive as Pokémon’s. That isn’t a problem,  because you can gain significant benefits by generating buzz on social media about a new product.

On top of that, building your online community is a fundamental aspect of any effective inbound marketing campaign. Eventually this can become a crazy effective lead-generating machine for your business. Click here for some great tips to help you get started!

Small Victories Pile Up in Pokémon Go and Inbound Marketing

If you start playing Pokémon Go, you’ll soon realize that there are Rattatas and Digletts everywhere! You’re going to see A LOT of these common Pokémon types (they’ll probably be standing around in your own home).

You’ll get tired of these Pokémon types quickly, but a wise trainer will still catch them when the opportunity strikes. Why? It’s because these captures earn them points and they can evolve (level up) these Pokémon faster.

Rattata a common Pokemon in Pokemon GO

You will run from my army of rattatas!!!

As an inbound marketer, this really resonates with me. Starting out, the work is tedious and unrewarding. If you’re doing inbound marketing for your business, you’re probably trying your hand at content marketing. It may not feel like you’re generating much, but each blog post you write or infographic you create will add up (if you stay consistent in your efforts).

If you’re marketing your content the right way, you’ll slowly but surely earn more points with your target audience and that will lead to a greater reach for your business and brand. Just be sure that each blog post you write has been properly optimized for search.

Reward Your Fans and Reap the Benefits

Pokémon is a massively influential franchise that affected an entire generation. I still remember collecting the cards with my little brother and watching the TV series. We invested plenty of our (and our parents’) money and time into these little pocket monsters and their world.

When Pokémon GO was announced (and that it would be available for free!), it caused widespread pandemonium. Fans couldn’t wait for a new way to interact with this world, and they were rewarded for it.

This should serve as a valuable experience for any business owner and marketer. When developing a new product or service, don’t forget about your loyal customer base. This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s not uncommon for businesses to market their new product in a way specifically designed to bring in new customers.

Prior or current customers should not be overlooked. In fact, when they are properly nurtured, these customers will make repeat purchases and become advocates for your brand. We may live in a digital age, but word of mouth is more powerful than ever!

If that doesn’t sway you, think about this: it costs businesses roughly 7x more to bring in a new customer than to retain an existing one. Reward your loyal customer base!

Use the “Foot-in-the-Door” Technique to Hook Your Target Audience

There was clear reasoning behind Niantic’s decision to make Pokémon GO a free-to-play app. They understood that their core demographic would be comprised of Millennials: a group who are willing to take extra steps if it means that they don’t have to pay for anything.

The genius here is that their team understood this would lead to more revenue in the long-run compared to a paid app. Why? Because they opened their game up to a much larger player base.

Once a player has become hooked on the mechanics, Niantic can market paid “extras” specifically to them. These are special in-game perks that can give them a leg up over their friends and other local trainers.

Within a week of it’s launch, Pokémon GO was already generating $1.6 million in daily revenue!

This type of marketing tactic is grounded in a psychological concept known as “foot-in-the-door” technique. Essentially this means that it’s easier to get someone to agree to a larger request after they’ve agreed to a smaller one.

There is no significant barrier to playing the game since it is free to download. If it hooks a player, then it’s only another small step to make an in-app purchase to get a leg up over a rival.

Pokemon GO's hook is a great inbound marketing tactic

Pokemon GO can make you feel like a real life trainer…

With inbound marketing, you can use this “foot-in-the-door” technique to hook your target demographic! Using these inbound marketing fundamentals allows you to develop a relationship with potential customers and build an online community around your business.

You can educate leads about the benefits of using your products and services, and make sure they know why it would decrease their quality of life if they missed out.

Providing engaging demos, samples or free trials are great ways to hook leads. Remember that you should aim for quality over quantity here. That hands-on experience with your product or service should provide a level of benefit that leaves them wanting more when their trial comes to a close. This is a powerful feeling that can be more compelling than the rationale to save money.


Pokémon GO has been out for less than a month, but it has already achieved a mind-blowing level of success. Hopefully, this success has shown you just how effective inbound marketing can be.

Here are some key takeaways from this post:

  • Niantic knew how to implement the right incentives to get their target audience to take the actions they desired.
  • Niantic leveraged Pokémon’s online community to generate buzz around Pokémon GO prior to launch.
  • The new app has great appeal for loyal fans and low barriers for first-time players.
  • Pokémon GO utilizes the “foot-in-the-door” technique to hook their target audience.

Each of these are representative of inbound marketing strategies that you can use to great effect for your own business. Want to know more? Drop me a message in the form below.

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