Not launching Pokemon Go here would be a missed opportunity

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IT WOULD NEVER have happened. Not by a long shot. Hypothetically speaking, if the launch strategy had been based purely on available data pertaining to Internet and smartphone penetration, Thailand would never have been considered a top-of-mind destinatio

But if you indexed the passion points for Japanese anime against every nation in the world, Thailand would definitely have been up there, considering how obsessed we are with all things Japanese, let alone colourful kawaii (cute) cartoon characters.
Since its appearance in mobile-advanced markets like the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, Pokemon Go has become a sensation, the single greatest phenomenon to hit the digital world this year.
It has been downloaded more than 30 million times and has generated in excess of US$35 million (Bt1.2 billion), according to VentureBeat.com.
Within just two weeks after its announcement to the world, according to IPG Mediabrands’ social-listening tool Prophesee, there were a total of 23 million mentions on social media (minus Facebook) globally, with the breakdown as below:
Twitter: 21.9 million
Forums: 860,000
News: 147,000
Blogs: 55,000
That works out to an average of 1.53 million mentions a day, whereas the Euro 2016 soccer tournament accumulated 34 million mentions over the course of 31 days, averaging just 1.1 million per day. Pokemon Go even overtook the usage rates of Twitter at one point.
How was it possible? It just seems inconceivable that the appeal of a mid-’90s yellow fuzzy cartoon character embedded in millennials’ nostalgia would have a greater impact than soccer, the world’s game.
But facts don’t lie and the conversations on social media will pick up greater momentum once Pokemon Go rolls out globally, especially in an anime-crazed country like Thailand. For instance, 52 per cent of the conversations on Pokemon Go came out of the US, compared with 21.3 per cent for the Euros, with the distribution of conversations much more far-reaching because of its global appeal.
I’m going to highlight some of the key lessons thus far and what brands should attempt to do upon the release of Pokemon Go locally.

Key findings
Augmented reality (AR) has finally gone mainstream after many failed attempts to shove it down the throats of the masses.
Much of the credit of AR’s success must be attributed to the power of nostalgic marketing. Pokemon resonates deeply with millennials who first came into contact with the yellow character when it was inaugurated 20 years ago on Game Boy. Leveraging a cultural icon that once shaped the way a 1990s teenager, breathed, lived and played has worked miracles.
Nintendo’s share price has doubled since July 6. It is now worth 4.36 trillion yen (Bt1.43 trillion), 300 billion yen more than Sony, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. After having trouble selling its console of late, the shift in platform strategy finally paid off for the mildly conservative tech company.
Currently Nintendo is monetising the application through in-game purchases, but there is a possibility of future in-game adverts and sponsorship, which would definitely benefit brick-and-mortar retailers as well.
For example, according to a finding by the New York Post, one pizza restaurant in Queens, New York, saw its business increase by 75 per cent after buying a $10 in-game power-up that lured Pokemon to its location. One might see a Charmander perched on a barstool or find a Snorlax in a bathroom stall, while non-playing customers just see a bunch of people wandering around with eyes glued to their phones.
On the social side of things, the Pokemon Go phenomenon has been disruptive in every sense of the word. You hear ridiculous stories of accidents occurring on the streets with players driving and simultaneously trying to capture a Pokemon creature, or pedestrians bumping into each other simply because they are fixated on the phone. Indonesia has banned some aspects of Pokemon Go in public places as it is a perceived threat to national security. Bad behaviour aside, the opportunities from being part of this great conversation are limitless, but brands shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon just for the sake of it.
Retailers will benefit the most from this app, with proposed implementations of promotions to Pokemon Go players to generate greater footfalls and create trials with specific products at the stores.
Brands that want to have an impact on the players’ lives may incorporate their products into the app when the characters appear, such as drinking a cold Singha beer at a bar, perhaps.
We’re just scraping the tip of the iceberg here, but as said, the opportunity for brand exposure on this latest craze must not go unnoticed.

Pradon Sirakovit is associate director for corporate communications, IPG Mediabrands Thailand. E-mail:pradon.sirakovit@mbww.com. Facebook: IPG Mediabrands Thailand.