Gotta Catch ‘Em All – The Pokémon Go Frenzy is Underway

Notice any abnormal activity from your kids this past weekend? 

As my son and I were driving down 71-S towards Cincinnati to visit some college campuses I noticed him playing a game on his phone that had him totally immersed and pre-occupied – more so than normal. Friday night, his best friend and his brothers (mind you there are 11 kids in this family) were wandering the neighborhood on foot after midnight playing the same game. Cut to Sunday night, my boys left the house at 11 pm to drive around Columbus with the same goal in mind. Unbelievably, I found myself driving around with my oldest son last night in a feverish attempt to catch the little guys!

All around the world, people are signing up to become Pokémon Trainers. Nintendo and Niantic have teamed up to release Pokémon Go, an augmented reality app that challenges you to find and catch Pokémon in the real world. Essentially, Pokémon and gyms are scattered around the world and it’s the trainers job to collect them and clear the gyms. When you get close to one it will appear on your screen in a real world setting and you throw pokeballs to try and catch it. What is really impressive are the real-world landmarks. They range from buildings, historical points of interest, aquariums, zoos, examples of street art, memorials, church’s and other stops that people may find interesting.  It’s getting people from ages 5 to 50+ to get out of their homes and interact with the world around them. The app has implications ranging from education, to improving family time, to marketing your business or destination, to helping with the obesity problem in America. Geez, how many apps can you name with this type of influence over people? 

Possibly could this Pokémon game do more for the problem of obesity than Michelle Obama has accomplished in 8 years? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40% of adults age 20 and over are obese. The number drops to a little over 20% for kids ages 12-19. This free game, which was released last Wednesday, has received positive feedback on social media citing the potential benefits of the game including mental and physical health. We all know that research has shown that exercising, walking and spending time in nature only improves ones overall health – so this game is a good thing, right? By the number of people I’ve seen outside wandering around trying to capture these guys, I’d say it’s going to help!

The game is just six days old and people are spending far more time looking for Pokémon than they are spending on their social media apps. There is some concern that the app has full access to your Google emails and drive documents, along with your search history, maps navigation history, access any private photos you may store in Google photos and more. My guess is this will be corrected or people will create Pokémon gmail addresses for the sole purpose of playing the game. You can look here to see if you have given up access to your account:  

A concern that’s been gaining traction is user safety. The programmers have done their best to try and make the game pedestrian safe but there are glitches to be worked out. In particular, when the Pokémon spawn, efforts are being driven towards making sure you don’t have to go into roadways or unsafe areas. In addition, the dark side of the game has given robbers the opportunity to use the games geo-location features to anticipate the location and level of seclusion to unaware victims. So, user beware, like anything you have to be smart and know your surroundings. If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t and get out of the area quickly.

Brands are using Pokémon Go to lure consumers to tourist destinations, universities, retail outlets, professional sport venues, pizza shops, fast food restaurants, bookstores and more. Advertisers are creatively using the game to offer discounts, shout outs, tweets, etc. Even police departments are getting in to the craze and helping users. Hopefully this will serve as a bridge to ease recent tensions.

There remains a lot that can be done with this app. Who knows if this will be a fad or really catch on? The early-adopters will benefit if they can figure out how to make it work for their business and in their social world. But you have to be careful because as soon as the users feel like they are being advertised to or being played – watch out, you will lose them. We’re already helping our clients with applications that make sense with the game. Reach out to me at [email protected] if you need training on how to make this work for your marketing program. 


Health Buzz: Pokémon GO Has Everyone Exercising, David Oliver, Associate Editor, Social Media, July 11, 2016

Pokémon Go is out, and it could turn into something seriously valuable, Matt S. Editor-in-Chief, Digitally, July 6, 2016

Pokémon Go is Having an Effect on Players’ Mental Health, Laura Donovan, July 8th 2016

Security Experts Says ‘Pokémon Go’ Is “Malware” and a “Huge Security Risk”, Joe Carmichael, Inverse  July 11, 2016

How brands are using the Pokémon Go craze to ‘catch ‘em all’, Diana Bradley, PRWeek,  July 11, 2016