When you see a mobile application exceed the use of Twitter in a little over a week of existence, it demands your attention. So, with the help of my 19-year-old daughter who loves the game, I jumped in and played it myself. Wow…

Everything there is to know about the latest forces shaping loyalty marketing today can be found right out on our streets in the Pokémon Go craze. While the impact of such a super hot app may not be sustainable over time, the basic attributes that have made the game so instantly popular and successful are where the entire marketing landscape is moving.

Here is where Pokémon Go hits the right customer loyalty targets:

Brands as Entertainment.

Who doesn’t like a trip down memory lane, especially when it comes with a twist? It’s a formula the Marvel Comics and James Bond brand movies have been thriving on for decades. Nintendo’s customers grew up on Pokémon, so the Pokémon Go game offers them a chance to relive those fond memories and associations. At the same time, their customers are now older, more sophisticated and tech savvy than when they once played the game; by satisfying their customers’ desires to both “play” — like when they were kids – and push the boundaries of technology through the application of augmented reality (AR), the entertainment value for their players is off the charts.

Brands, such as Ben & Jerry’s, have figured out that marketing-as-entertainment is the key to keeping customers coming back and spending time with their brand. Ben & Jerry’s leveraged the launch of a new flavor with the integration of their use of social media – in this case, Snapchat. Using mystery and tying it to a social presence that is inherently about photos and fun is a great example of entertaining engagement.

Immersive Experiences Powered by Content.

The AR aspect of the Pokémon Go game is huge, as growing numbers of consumers are looking for unique, sensory-filled experiences. As Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes explains, “AR enables users to view data overlaid onto the real world…For Pokémon Go, this means overlaying the interactive game map on the real streets and buildings of reality and allowing users to catch Pokémon using their camera. What makes Pokémon so attractive to users is this intersection of the virtual and real world as created by AR.”

Pokémon Go also adds an educational aspect to the game. PokéStops, places where you recharge your number of Poké Balls (and get other free stuff), offer interesting information about the location itself. For the older demographic, this additional content is like an extra reason to play. Players are going to places they never had a reason to visit and learn something new in the process.

This combination of interesting content, both related to the game and to a location, is a useful lesson for brands. Much of the content sent to loyalty members, usually by eMail, is not interesting, relevant nor engaging. Brands need to think about the complete experience, leveraging personalized content as part of the “loyalty game.”
Motivational vs Manipulative.

So many loyalty programs are built on the concept of “do this, get these points.” While that approach may get your customers engaging, it doesn’t guarantee long-lasting customer loyalty. Games like Pokémon Go give the customer something they don’t have to do, but something they want to do. They want to make in-game purchases because they are motivated to reach the next level. The game leads customers naturally to purchase instead of pushing them artificially with the promise of rewards.

Most of all, the beauty of the Pokémon Go game is how it’s tied so directly to measurable business results. Although few loyalty programs can expect to enjoy the degree of success of Nintendo’s latest game launch (i.e. doubling the company’s market cap and driving in excess of $14M in the first four days!), every program can and should map to business metrics that impact a brand’s bottom line. To do this, marketers must identify up-front the key business drivers and design their programs explicitly with these goals in mind.

Consumers are telling us all the time what makes for lasting brand experiences. The Pokémon Go phenomenon is just the latest example. Make it simple, fun and worth their while and your customers will end up rewarding you with their time, attention and unabashed support.

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