Pikachu started showing up in my Facebook feed last week. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about keeping up with pop culture fads as of late, so I had to check him out. His appearance wasn’t something that grabbed my attention or caught my interest, but I knew it was something to keep watching for the sake of my credit unions. What is it again? Oh, yeah, the Pokémon Go craze.
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon, the Nintendo-owned franchise, exploded in popularity with now millennials in the late 90s. It is once again taking America by storm — this time as a free app download on Android and iOS devices. In fact, within the first three days of release, it was the most downloaded app and has become so popular that it’s on the verge of overtaking Twitter in terms of daily active users.
In short, Pokémon Go uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect when and where you are in the game to make Pokémon “appear” around you (on your phone screen). Then you can catch them as they play hide and seek. As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon appear depending on where you are and what time it is. The point? To encourage you to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game. For reference, this combination of gaming and real world interaction is known as “augmented reality.”
So why is Pokémon Go a success?
More importantly, what can you do to duplicate its success at your credit union?
Nostalgia for a loved brand probably helped…but not much. Much like your credit union has some history, so did Nintendo. Some older millennial thirty-somethings have downloaded the app as a chance to return to their teen years. But the numbers are just too big to be powered by millennials trying to relive happy memories of better days. There are plenty of younger people who missed the Pokémania of the 90s and are now meeting Pokémon for the first time. Much like those who missed the bonanza of credit unions in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there are consumers just waiting to be introduced to your brand—if only it had something for them.
What has really driven the app’s outrageous growth is traditional, good ol’ word-of-mouth marketing. Those who enjoyed the game wanted their friends to experience it, so they shared more about it in person and online. That happens naturally with every good product (and often times bad products).
It’s been many years since Nintendo has been considered a “hip and cool” brand with something to offer the next generation. Perhaps it’s been a while since your brand has been “trending.” Yet, if you’re truly fulfilling the credit union philosophy, you have something of great value to offer the next generation. During a time when financial education is the last thing on the mind of university administrators, and student loan debt is spiraling out of control, credit unions could very well be the Pokémon Go of the financial services world, with only a little effort.
Final thoughts on Pokémon Go
We live in complicated times. The political, social, and economic division lines in our country are creating a great deal of tension. When something as simple as a digital game can bring people together regardless of political and religious beliefs, it isn’t a game anymore. When something more powerful than protests can bring people of many ages and races together, it can become an instrument for true social change.
Pokémon Go may be popular now, but its future depends on how well Niantic creates new features that keep people engaged. Much like credit unions were popular decades ago with huge growth and a slew of new charters, our future depends on how well we create caring products and custom solutions that resonate with today’s world and keep people engaged.
The marketing take away? In short, find a way to bring people together through your brand and your marketing. Remarkable things can happen.