July 23

Pokemon Go – An Epic Fail

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Before you instantly go to the comments section and tell me I’m crazy, give me a chance to explain the title of this post. Pokemon Go is a smashing success, no argument there. It’s a phenomenon I don’t understand. I guess I was too old when Pokemon came out. The Pokemon brand has managed to stay relevant for a few decades now. I laughed last month when my son told me that the largest group at his high school is the Pokemon club. He told me this before Pokemon Go came out. I can only imagine how big the club is now.

So where’s the epic fail? A lot of companies that spend millions each year trying to capture Millennials have failed to capitalize on the Pokemon Go craze. The list is long, so to avoid a 10,000 word post, I’m looking at the companies in my portfolio that have an opportunity to jump on the Pokemon Go bandwagon but haven’t done so. The companies I’m referring to are Wal-Mart and Target.

The Pokemon Go Craze

It’s madness out there. The craze is not isolated to a single generation; people of all ages are chasing these creatures. News reports of people solving crimes and being victims of crime are becoming daily occurrences. Dead bodies have been found and people have walked off of cliffs in pursuit of a Pokemon. It’s insane. Last week, traffic came to a standstill in Manhattan when a rare Pokemon was found in Central park. People fled their cars, leaving them on the road in traffic and raced to capture this Pokemon.

It’s gone viral. On ESPN, I saw the Phillies mascot chase Pikachu during the 7th inning stretch. He of course received a standing ovation from the crowd.

When I left my office in San Francisco last Friday night, I saw hundreds of small groups running around like little kids chasing Pokemon. A few days ago, a driver crashed into a parked police car because he was Pokemon Going while driving.

I confess, I’m either too old or too boring, but I don’t get the hype. I haven’t installed the app and I don’t plan on doing so. My avoidance hasn’t stopped most people I know from playing the game. In fact, as I write this post, I’m sitting next to two people who have their eyes glued on the app (just in case a Pokemon show’s up in our office). Two weeks ago,  I went to a friends 50th birthday party, which was a pub crawl. Early in the evening, I saw about twenty kids standing outside the bar looking inside. I asked what was going on, and they informed me that a rare Pokemon was in the area, maybe in the bar :-). I didn’t see any, but there were a few people in the bar who could pass as a poorly designed Pokemon ;-).

Pokemon Go Explodes While Wal-Mart and Target Do Nothing

While talking to the kids outside the bar (this sounds like a bad movie script or a one way ticket to prison), A light went off in my head. I got really excited because of the companies in my portfolio, Wal-Mart and Target have the means and opportunity to jump all over the Pokemon Go craze. Sadly, they haven’t done so. I’ve racked my brain about why they haven’t done anything. Do they have horrible agencies managing their social handles? Are they so out of touch with what’s hot that they don’t see the opportunity? Or are they just stuck in their old ways? The last assumption is the scariest one for me to think about. I hold both stocks, but I don’t love the companies strategies in social and new marketing channels. Target has come a long way the past few years, but Wal-Mart is so out of touch with younger generations.

I’m not picking on these two brands. It’s been well documented that these two companies are out of touch and they are getting it handed to them by online retailers, and of course the 800lb Gorilla – Amazon. This epic failure to capitalize on an opportunity to capture new customers (the ones they spend millions of dollars a year to attract) is one that has me skeptical about these two brands competing with more nimble and socially forward companies.

Think about it. Wal-Mart and Target both have impressive websites with huge volumes of daily unique visitors. They both also have thousands of brick and mortar stores. They both sell Pokémon products in their stores and online. Yet, aside from one post I saw a few days ago from Wal-mart, neither brand has made an effort to capture the Pokémon Go crowd.

Pokemon Go – Why The Demographic Is Important

Younger generations have moved online. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’re the former CEO of Sports Authority or JC Penney :-). These current consumers and future breadwinners see physical stores as a last resort. Many only visit stores when something is needed immediately or when something cannot be purchased online. Wal-Mart and Target are stores where their parents and grandparents shop, not them. My son for example would rather have hot daggers poked in his eyes than take a trip to Wal-Mart with me.

Pokemon Go has given Millennials a reason to visit the store; not to shop, but to capture a Pokémon. Trust me if a rare or legendary Pokemon show’s up at Target, people will flock there. They may never come back, it’s up to the retailer to capture the audience once in the store. But getting people into the store is one of the largest challenges that Wal-Mart and Target face. If one of these brands partnered with the Pokémon Go app, they could guarantee a bunch of new visitors in their store or on their website.

Pokemon Go – What Can Wal-Mart Or Target Do?

The list of ideas is huge. I’ll highlight a few that I’ve had, some are no-brainers, while others need money, time, and licensing deals. I’ll refer to them as small, medium, and large with the sizes determined by level or effort. It all comes down to embracing the crazy and capitalizing on short-term opportunities that could lead to long-term gains.

Pokemon Go Small Efforts

Both brands should be actively tweeting and posting on Social Media channels.

  • Pokemon sightings, Pokemon lost leaders, Pokemon toy giveaways, Live Pokemon character appearances in-store, screenshots of employees capturing Pokemon in-store.
  • Create a Pokemon Go homepage takeover. That’s right, for one day Pokemon have overrun the retailers website.
  • Temporarily turn their logo into a Pokemon character. Design a new Pokemon that has the store’s logo weaved into the design.
  • Create a Pokemon game that can only be played on the store’s website.

Pokemon Go Medium Efforts

Partnering with the Pokemon Go app creators to pay for sponsorship or ad placement. A few ideas I have that would be easy to implement.

  • Buy ad placements that could put on every users screen. This would hopefully create a connection between Pokemon and the store. This should lead to increased Pokemon related online sales.
  • Sponsor a legendary Pokemon. By this I mean, pay to own when and where this one Pokemon appears on the Pokemon Go app. Imagine how many people would flock to these stores to capture a legendary Pokemon. This could be done on the sly, or be actively promoted. The stores could advertise that this Pokemon can only be captured in-store. Kids will be begging their parents to take them to Wal-Mart or Target. Small social efforts could fuel the excitement. These brands could post in-store sightings to build hype.
  • Offer a sweepstakes. Whomever catches the most Pokemon in stores wins a prize.

Pokemon Go Large Efforts

  • Partner with Nintendo to have exclusive rights to sell the next Pokemon game in their store only.
  • Partner with Nintendo to create new Pokemon that can only be found at your store.

Pokemon Go Takeaways

I’m not a professional marketer, yet I came up with a handful of ideas in less than 30 minutes. Imagine what could be done by an agency with the marketing spend of a Wal-Mart or Target. The real takeaway here is that these stores have done nothing, hence my title Pokemon Go An Epic Fail. The Pokémon craze has created a perfect solution for an ongoing problem, which is getting people off their couches and into your stores. The app has already done the hard part. It’s managed to pull kids away from their laptops and gaming systems and shown them what they’ve been missing for years, SUNSHINE ;-). They’re out and about.

What makes this a perfect opportunity for marketers is first and foremost the demographic. It’s also a tactic that can be used by small merchants and huge conglomerates, because Pokemon Go is a local, national, and international craze. And the madness is just getting started. The app hasn’t launched worldwide yet.

It’s worth noting that other brands are taking advantage of the craze. T-Mobile is offering one free year of Pokemon Go data. And McDonald’s has just entered a contract in Japan to offer a Pokemon toy in Happy Meals.

Pokemon Post Update

After I posted this story today my friend read my post and sent me a screenshot of his Yelp app. This is what I’m talking about, it takes no time to implement simple strategies to capture this crowd. I understand partnerships and future deals take time, but simple online and social tactics can happen overnight. I work for one of the largest media companies in the world and we’ve been all over this craze since the day the app came out. Articles, galleries, videos, news and tons of social commentary have been posted, so I know it’s not that difficult. If it is that difficult then I question if I want to continue owning the stock of companies that will not or cannot jump on trends. Just my 2-cents.

Yelp it listing nearby PokeStops in their app results pages. It’s a great idea.

Who will be next? Why not Target or Wal-Mart?

Do you play Pokemon Go? If you ran the marketing divisions of a major retailer what would you do to capture audience using Pokemon Go?


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