What Pokémon GO Teaches Us About Innovative Content

By Benton Olivares

I hardly want to write this article – apparently, there’s a plethora of PokéStops over at Centennial Park in Nashville, and I want a Snorlax. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a media storm like I have with Pokémon GO. The statistics and stock prices are ludicrous, Nintendo, saw a valuation increase by over $7 billion in less than 10 days; you’d almost liken it to a toddler saying that they made a trillion gazillion dollars from their lemonade stand. People are talking about Nintendo now – there were over 6 million impressions on Twitter within the first week.

When was the last time Pokémon was on the tongues of literally every American? I can’t remember a PokéFrenzy like this since the early 2000s – the games got repetitive, and the fan-based seemed to be growing out of the craze. At the core of it, Pokémon GO is a vehicle for a story; it’s your story as a trainer, it’s your journey to catch them all, and it’s the epic of dominating the other teams (where are all my Mystics at?!). Now, Pokémon is at the forefront of our culture again because it became personal. It’s a parable of determination, indomitable spirit, and social cooperation.

So, how does that relate to video? No one was talking about Nintendo; it was all about Xbox and Playstation. Now, they are intertwined with our culture again, and it’s due to their commitment to reinventing themselves and connecting to their consumers. There’s much to be said for companies who push boundaries and engage their audiences – it’s a matter of being bold, innovative, and engaging.

Be Bold
The risk of developing a mobile game of a franchise from the 90s is obvious. What if the customers don’t care about the brand anymore? Many factors could set the whole plan ablaze and Nintendo could see even steeper drops in their stocks following the disappointing sales of their flagship console. We don’t know the full extent of their preliminary market research, but the fact still stands that the app was a bold move. Fortune favors the bold. It’s imperative that your brand keeps pushing the boundaries of your story or the stories that your company believes in. Surprise people; force them to rethink how your brand fits into our culture. However, don’t go the way of Independence Day: Resurgence and crush everyone’s hopes and dreams.  

Be Innovative
How will your brand innovate the creative content space? Will you create a rotoscope animation piece to tell a powerful story about your brand? Or perhaps you tell the story of a triumphant spirit, and simply remind your audience that you’re a company with values. Great brand campaigns are like comets – brilliant moments of light, fire, and stardust. When it passes, it’s gone, and now there’s only the next comet. You must constantly be innovating your brand story to keep audiences talking about your product, otherwise you’ll be left behind in the wake of the next big thing that isn’t yours.

Be Engaging
Pokémon GO’s ability to engage is apparent: it’s an interactive game. So how does a story engage your consumers? Perhaps there’s an action that your customers can take. If they see a branded comedy piece, they might be encouraged to tweet out their like-stories with a certain hashtag, and then a winner will be chosen from that pool to receive a gift from your company. People also love emotional stories that ensnare the heart – give people the opportunity to learn about a social ailment and ways they can combat it with your brand. When consumers see that you’re engaged with the culture and the stories that emanate from it, they’ll be more enticed to choose your brand the next time.

The annoyingly addicting content has proven that even decades-old brands can be revitalized. Nintendo evolved their strategy in order to re-engage their audience, and it has worked like gangbusters. I mean… a $7 billion increase in value in less than two weeks! That’s some Legendary Pokémon stuff, right there. That’s like seeing an Articuno in the wild: unbelievable. They went from radio silence to the most explosive trend in our culture in 2016. We can learn from Pokémon GO and glean invaluable lessons about marketing and branded content – it’s about taking risks, reimagining the video content space, and engaging your audience, not selling to them.