Pokémon GO: SMB Edition

Originally Published July 27th, 2016

The Number 1 App in the World

Pokémon GO released July 6th and yet at the time of this article being written it still holds the #1 spot for free apps in iTunes and the Google Play store. You could say this app is kind of a big deal.

Pokémon has been around for a long time — over 20 years — and it has remained incredibly popular over that timeframe through a variety of formats. From video games to TV shows, Pokémon has continued to stay relevant and people enjoy it all over the world.

The latest media format that Pokémon is dominating is mobile, augmented reality (AR). Pokémon Go accomplishes what fans have dreamed of for a long time: it allows gamers to play as a real Pokémon trainer, catching Pokémon in real environments. Trainers are able to catch Pokémon by exploring the outside world, visiting both popular local attractions and hidden secret spots marked on map in the app.

AR games are still a fairly new concept and not many currently exist. In augmented reality games, a device uses its cameras to augment computer graphics onto live footage, putting the user directly in the game. Much of Pokémon GO’s success can be attributed to the thoughtful implementation and use of AR in the game itself.

Cultural Impact

The release of Pokémon GO and its rising popularity is causing quite the cultural impact.

The exponential increase of physical activity in communities is probably the largest impact of Pokémon GO to date. Even fitness tracker companies have noticed this change! Really, it’s hard not to notice how much more active people are and it isn’t uncommon to see groups of people all walking around looking down at their phones, thumbs ready to swipe.

Fans looking to relive the glory days of Pokémon are doing so in many ways. YouTube videos of the original cartoon show are resurfacing on social media profiles. This summer’s comic book conventions are seeing an uptick in Pokémon related cosplayers. Some fans are also taking this game to the extreme, and are upsetting organizations such as the Arlington National Park, the New York Holocaust Museum, and the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Memorial in Poland. Pokémon Trainers have been asked by these originations to stop catching Pokémon at their locations in order to ensure guests are properly treating the memorials with respect.

Everything from graffiti in the streets, to startups, to Fortune 500 companies are actively participating in this global phenomenon.


Pokémon GO hasn’t only impacted consumers. Everyone is trying to get in on the trend and benefit from it. Many businesses have been specifically

using Pokémon GO in their marketing efforts as well as using in-app purchases to drive foot traffic to retail and boutique-based businesses. Due to its extremely high rate of engagement, even some of the world’s largest businesses are also using Pokémon to drive social media marketing.


Pizza PokéStop

One New York Pizza Bar said that their sales rocketed 75% over the weekend Pokémon was release due to the owner spending $10 on “lure modules” which attracted in game Pokémon, and real life customers to their location.

Spring Dipper

An ice cream shop that already received a lot of traffic doubled down on its location & Pokémon GO attraction. Spring Dipper in Arkansas is promoting discounts on their products all summer long based on a trainer’s Pokémon GO level. Pokémon trainers could receive between a 10% — 50% discount on purchases, by simply showing off their avatar’s level.


Outside of directly trying to drive sales, several businesses have tried their hand at integrating Pokémon GO with their marketing efforts, including Leeward.

Space X

SpaceX’s customer base isn’t the average consumer, but rather agencies that need to launch items into space. SpaceX knows, however, in the privatized launch industry that fans of the brand drive marketing engagement for the origination.

On SpaceX’s most recent launch — the company’s 9th contracted International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission — SpaceX signed off the live stream of the mission with a fictitious Pokémon appearance. The hosts of the live stream abruptly, but planned, stopped their discussion when the AR overlay of the Pokémon Go app appeared on screen, with a cartoon drawing of the Dragon Spacecraft as the Pokémon trying to be caught.

Although SpaceX’s marketing efforts are not going to compel an average consumer to purchase SpaceX’s service, it sure helps SpaceX draw another demographic of social media participants to their online content outlets.

McDonalds PokéStop Sponsorship

Pokémon GO only recently released in Japan, much later than in other countries. This late release comes with a bit more, though.

PokéStops and Gyms are the driving force behind the success of Pokémon GO. Without these, people would just be trying to catch animated creatures with no way to show success.

PokéStops force users to get up and move in order to refill their ‘ammo,’ also known as PokéBalls. Naturally, PokéStops are popular and necessary for the game’s core mechanics to work. So much so in fact, that businesses in the United States are actually looking to become PokéStops. If a business is a PokéStop, that means they will have an influx of new people coming to that location to stock up on in-game goods, and hopefully the business’s products as well.

In Japan before the release of Pokémon GO, Niantic partnered with McDonalds. All McDonald’s locations in Japan are hubs at which users can battle their Pokémon. This has proven to be a great sales tool on for McDonald’s.

According to NanoNews,

“McDonald’s Japan shares rose about 3 percent following the announcement. Financial details have not been disclosed, but McDonald’s said that about 400 of its 2,900 restaurants in the country are designated as “gyms” where players can battle on their smartphones.”

Animal Shelters

Sore legs are one of the side effects of excessively playing Pokémon GO, since users are encouraged to walk. Multiple animal shelters decided to take advantage of this feature of the app by allowing users to take dogs for a walk while they’re out playing Pokémon GO. In addition to getting a job done volunteers would usually have to do, this led to higher adoption rates as people were taking dogs out to walk and then wanting to keep them! This benefits both the dogs and the shelter!

Bringing it Home

Those examples show great success, but generally, it depends on the industry of the business.

Here’s our comprehensive chart of the principles we’ve seen work with Pokémon go, and how they fit into different organizations. Try out a couple today and let us know how it goes!

Gen Z Marketer Passionate About Communities

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