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The Pokémon Go digital game took the world by storm. Since the launch of the game in 2016, Pokémon Go has over 21 million players belonging to different age groups across the globe, and the numbers are projected to hit 60 million by 2020 (Biel, 2016). The popular game also has a significant effect on Nintendo, one of the key stakeholders in the development of Pokémon Go as it put the company’s brand back to the world’s consciousness. Although Nintendo’s participation in the game production process does not guarantee investors high returns, the positive effects on the firm’s brand image are incredibly beneficial for the future of the company. Critical analysis of the success of the Pokémon Go phenomenon and impact on the Nintendo’s brand in the summer of 2016 will be instrumental in advising brand managers on what they can learn from this occurrence.
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Reasons for Pokémon Go’s Success
Pokémon Go’s success is attributable to several factors. One is the effective use of augmented reality in the game. Pokémon Go offers consumers an opportunity to simulate their reality on their mobile phones, where they combine the real and virtual reality into one. Players have a unique opportunity to interact with their surrounding environment as they seek to find Pokémons, virtual images, located around them. Consumers have a free reign with their simulations, they use their creativity to create their ideal world and get recognition for their efforts from other players. For example, players can train their Pokémon in a gym to prepare them for a challenge, or simulate locations depending on their preferences. As a result, the Pokémon Go players live their fantasies through the augmented reality, where they actively interact with a variety of Pokémon and others to create more fun in their lives. This game reveals Nintendo’s ability to create imaginative, enjoyable, and entertaining games that brings communities together. Families can play Nintendo’s game to grow their bonds, and allow the fulfillment of their wishful thinking and fantasies.
Two, Pokémon Go’s popularity is based on the constructive knowledge of consumers. According to the constructivist model, learning is normally an active process, where people use their knowledge, experiences, and mental capabilities to understand issues. Different players on Pokémon Go can use different strategies to capture the same Pokémon, and their performance improves with their overall experience in the game. Through the sharing of playing experiences in social media or by word of mouth, the player tends to improve in the game, and this is consistent with the constructivism principles. Besides, the customers also acquire systematic knowledge about the 150 range of Pokémon as they play the game, and this motivates them to continue playing. At the same time, the customers become more aware about their neighborhoods, and how they can make a positive impact on their home areas. In fact, many businesses are ecstatic with the Pokémon Go game that has seen a considerable increase in sales level in many shops across the country. Consequently, Nintendo is seen as a company whose main interest is to help people to acquire the right learning skills, and promote economic growth. Consumers are impressed with the company’s willingness to share its success with local businesses, and this has made the firm’s brand popular in the business community.
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Additionally, the nostalgic effect of Pokémon Go is another explanation of the company’s success. Nostalgia refers to the feelings that induce memories about the past, and influence the relationship between customers and brands by appealing to the emotional side of the consumers (Jansson-Boyd & Zawisza, 2017). Generally, nostalgia marketing targets specific groups of individuals that identify themselves with similar characteristics about their pasts, particularly generational groups. Unknown to many people in the young generation, Pokémon Go was initially created in 1995, and many millennial had a chance to play the game during their youth particularly during the 1996-1999 period (Fung, 2017). Through the employment of the three stages phases of nostalgia, namely emotional appeal, cognitive reaction, and behavioral reaction, Pokémon Go became a success. To initiate a nostalgic feeling among the Millennial, the Pokémon Go manufacturers retained the same version of the game making it easily recognizable among this group of people. The cognitive reaction was the creation of a strong yearning among the millennial to play the game because it reminds them about their youth and friends and families that used to participate in the game. This led to the purchase of the Pokémon Go and subsequent playing of the game in the target population. As a result, the introduction of the new Pokémon Go, which has slight technological variations from the earlier version, appeals to the older generation as seen from the following statistics. Approximately, 31% of Pokémon Go players are over 31years of age, and their interest in the game is likely to continue in the near future (Statista, 2017). Due to the nostalgic feeling of these consumers, they readily accept the new game, in spite of the additional features, because it allows them to experience their past. The millennial customers now recognize and appreciate the Nintendo Company for the re-introduction of the familiar Pokémon Go that provides them with comfort at the end of every day.
Lastly, is the integration of social media tools in the advertisement of Pokeman Go. Advancement in Internet technology has led to the introduction of numerous social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp among other networking sites (Szoka, et al., 2010), which have thousands of users. According to statistics, Facebook is the most popular site with 1871 million. It is followed by WhatsApp at 1000 million, and Facebook Messenger 1000 million users as of January 2017 (Chaffey, 2017). According to the social media influence theory, social media has a significant influence over the behavior of consumer. The behavior of a person is greatly influenced by the actions or emotions of other individuals in the same social circle. There has been a significant shift in consumer behavior as more people now rely on social media to search for product information, connect with friends, and share ideas regarding particular companies and purchases. The introduction of Pokémon Go in various social media platforms enabled the game’s manufacturers to leverage the power of social media, as people sought to play the game to fit in among their friends and families. Consumers began to share their videos, experiences, and Pokémon Go on various sites, and soon the game went viral. Until today, Pokémon Go players keep in touch with each other, as they organize and attend Facebook events to coordinate their efforts in searching for Pokémon in their regions (De Sousa, 2016). And attending such events is considered to a ticket to a particular social class. As the awareness of Pokémon Go spread like wildfire in the market, Nintendo’s brand, which is synonymous with the game, became stronger in the summer of 2016.
Besides, Pokémon Go game was one of the best innovations in 2016 created through the strategic partnerships between the manufacturers. In view of the resource based view, the right partner in business should help in value creation for a company. The Pokémon Go was manufactured by Niantic, which had control over the GPS and special features of the game, and launched by Nintendo. Pokémon Go is an innovative solution for obesity problems facing millions of people in the world, as they have an opportunity to exercise their bodies without visiting a gym. Moreover, the game demonstrates the innovative abilities of the manufactures as the servers can support millions of players at one go. Since the idea to build a Pokémon Go app that is easily downloadable on mobile phones was Nintendo’s idea; it is obvious that the company understands the customers need (Cipolla-Ficarra, et al., 2017). Having the reputation of an innovative company is key to the creation of Nintendo’s brand image, it has led to the formation of a better brand perception for the firm in the market.
Lessons Learnt by Branding Managers
Brand managers in other industries have a lot to learn from Nintendo’s brand experience with the Pokémon Go game. Augmented reality is the future of brand marketing, and organizations should incorporate the technology in their marketing activities. People like to escape from the confines of the real world by indulging in pleasurable activities. The hypereality theory posits that human beings escape the reality to pursue a simulated world, the two are seamlessly combined making it difficult for their separation. However, it is important to make sure that the augmented reality is accessible and affordable to attract many people across the board. Also, the augmented reality should be used to tell a story about the company in the same way that Nintendo uses Pokémon Go to show the firm’s dedication to manufacture innovative games for all the whole community.
The managers should focus on the identification of the right strategic partners to help in building their brand. Identification of the potential value creation of a company lies on the resources brought to the tables. A good partner should have resources that have four key features including rare, difficult to imitate, value, and non-substitutable. Although Nintendo has numerous years of experience in game production and the necessary equipment to create new games, its partnership with Niantic Company was instrumental in the game’s success. Niantic had the GPS capability for Pokémon Go from the Ingress game, and the management’s experience was quite helpful in the creation of the virtual elements (Garcia & , 2017). On the other hand, Nintendo’s strong brand in the market made the company the right choice for publishing the game. Due to the dynamic strategic partnership lead to the creation of stronger brands.
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Brand managers should also understand the importance of social media tools in branding. Without the use of Facebook and Instagram, Pokémon Go would not have the same amount of popularity in the world today. Interestingly, people continue to play the game with the same enthusiasm one year later after its launch. Social media is essential during the introduction of Pokémon Go in the market, and in sustaining excitement over the years. Besides, combining the social media tools and strategic partnerships will help to add further improvements to the game to ensure it remains relevant.
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