Uncovering the secrets of Pokemon GO: How to create powerful products online in 2016

5th August 2016 / 8 minute read

Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO was the epitome of overnight success. Within days, the Pokemon GO effect had users across the world eagerly downloading the app on iOS or Android, endlessly prowling their hometown streets and congregating in public spaces with self-professed fellow Pokemon masters in search of the next Pokemon to capture. But with technical setbacks now plaguing the brand, player interest is plummeting; the initial hype disintegrating rapidly. Several questions are left to be answered.

What made Pokemon GO so successful? What kept Pokemon GO users glued to their mobile screens, what decision had them fleeing from the app, and what lessons can businesses take from this?

We discuss the Pokemon GO effect, and what determines the perfect recipe for powerful products online.

Pokemon phone

One: Know your brand

Don’t reinvent the wheel. With a fast paced and rapidly changing technological landscape brands can be easily lured into changing their identity to ‘modernise’, ‘transform’ and ‘revolutionise’ their offering in order to stand out (or fit in). When a business approaches Equals Creative for advice on their digital marketing strategy, we allow ourselves the opportunity to understand the brand fully before advocating changing a it’s identity; aiming instead to get to the core of their business in order to make the best decisions for the growth of that brand. Often a great deal of time, energy and resources have already been used in establishing a brand’s message. Revolutionising your business isn’t about embellishing your brand and repackaging it; it’s about the creative, innovate and useful ways to redefine what you’ve already got.

Pokemon provides a great example of a business knowing exactly what they stand for, and uses this to their advantage when creating new products. This has helped Pokemon to become a timeless brand which has the ability to endure the highs and lows of technological turbulence and the associated demands if its users.

Ask yourself the following questions about your brand:

Where has your business come from?
What is at the core of your brand?
What is at the centre of your brand’s message?

With the numerous directions businesses can be pulled in, it can take a while to unpick these questions. Nonetheless, remaining true to your business and it’s key principles is the only starting point from which to create powerful online products.

Two: Gamification

Trivial though it seems, applying game-play elements to your brand’s offering is a great way to boost engagement with your product.

Research has shown that dopamine released in the brain in anticipation of winning a game can make game-play experiences more memorable and positive than ordinary experiences. When dopamine-inducing gaming elements such as surprise and chance are incorporated into a ‘normal’ activity, users feel compelled to return and repeat the process.

“So how do you expect me to Gamify my e-commerce business?” I hear you ask.

We’re not advocating small to medium sized businesses spending their marketing budget on an augmented reality game, but the implications of gamification are well worth taking on board, particularly within the retail sector.

With talk of virtual reality marketing becoming more prevalent and plenty of brands already adopting VR in the marketing strategy, industry experts predict that we could be seeing retail stores applying reward-based systems to their offering in the not-too-distant future.

Three: Communicate with your audience

Online products will only work once a dialogue can be established with your audience. When Pokemon GO creator Niantic removed a key location feature within Pokemon GO, users were less than impressed. Player interest quickly waned, and with users left frustrated and disappointed after the initial hysteria, the app’s popularity plummeted drastically.

But perhaps Niantic’s biggest error was their lack of communication with the Pokemon GO community. Fans argued that the decision to remove trackers was poorly communicated, fuelling grievance and leaving players confused and disappointed.

A vital lesson lies here businesses: underestimating the power of audience communication can be detrimental to your brand. Information is key, and no matter how small or large your audience or customer base is, communication is vital if you want to be rated above your competitors.

Four: Social engagement

The Pokemon Go Effect has been the topic of discussion in groups both on and offline across the world. Playing on the concept of community, the app compels strangers to congregate in public spaces and random locations to find and capture their next Pokemon. A very individual single-player gaming experience on a mobile phone instantly links you to millions of like-minded aspiring Pokemon GO Masters. The somewhat addictive and seemingly relentless act of seeking virtual Pokemon creates a relatability to other users, which transpires into the real world when players cross paths at Pokestops, sparking conversation and interaction.

But the role of community is not limited to the gaming market. Online networks and communities often play a key role in our everyday lives and identities, as we turn to the internet to create and share personal information and ideas. Creating a social space around your business will enable interaction with your brand, increasing both the longevity and the potential of your business.

Five: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Whatever your project, product or service, launching when you are ready is paramount. Planning is key; if you haven’t planned for growth, tested for reliability or thought about your customer experience then you are going to fall short in your customers expectations.


“Planning is key; if you haven’t planned for growth, tested for reliability or thought about your customer experience then you are going to fall short in your customers expectations”

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