Last summer Niantic disrupted the consumer market worldwide with the launch of a new Pokémon game. Young as well as old grabbed their hiking shoes and roamed the streets in search of digital “animals”, but just a few months later the consumer engagement came to a crashing halt, and the trend was officially over.

So, what went wrong, and what went right? Here is what you, as a marketer, should learn from the rise and fall of Pokémon Go:

The good

Let’s start with what Niantic, who developed the game in partnership with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company, did right. These points are something we marketers should get better at with all our campaigns:

Challenging the audience

Marketers often adapt their campaigns to user behavior, which in itself isn't a bad thing. To reach our target audience we must, after all, communicate with the audience on their own terms, but that doesn’t mean we can’t challenge consumer behavior.

Big companies like Apple and Tesla do this all the time by introducing us to new functionalities we didn’t even know we wanted. Pokémon Go succeeded in making gaming an outside experience which, let’s admit it, was groundbreaking.

Lesson learned: Consumers are not stupid, they want and like to be challenged. So don’t be afraid to incorporate new trends in your marketing campaigns.

Making payment simple

Smartphones are the number one device consumers use to access content. Despite this, many payment plans are only suitable for desktop. That means most campaigns exclude the majority of potential customers.


Niantic simplified the purchasing process by allowing the players to buy x amounts of gold coins, which they then used freely to buy items. This isn’t a new concept in gaming, so making it simple for consumers to buy your product with a smartphone is possible.

Lesson learned: Don’t exclude mobile customers

Daring to use new technology

The Pokémon Go app introduced augmented reality to the consumers, and they loved it. We have passed the point in history where technology is something scary. Today’s consumers get excited about new gadgets, but brands often hesitate to introduce new concepts to their target group. Often it’s a matter of cost versus benefit, but even more often it’s because they don’t want to leave the comfort of what they know.

Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to take advantage of new technology.  

The bad

Although Pokémon Go experienced a popularity most marketers would only dream of achieving, the process didn’t exactly go smoothly and, as we see a year later, they didn’t manage to sustain the social engagement for long. Here is what we learned not to do:

Launching a campaign by country

Now, I realize that launching a game worldwide at once is extremely challenging, on the verge of impossible, and that most brands limit their target group to certain geographical areas. But, in case you didn’t already know it, digital marketing isn’t limited by national borders.

Niantic’s attempt to limit app users by country or region, not only irritated the consumers, it was totally ineffective. Within minutes, the internet had an abundance of articles on how you could get around the user restrictions.

Lesson learned: Excluding consumers based on geography is a thing of the past.

Introducing something overly complex

Niantic had to chuck several features and simplify the app after it launched because the game kept crashing. The most dedicated consumers started playing at night, but gradually many just lost interest, as it was possible to reach the highest level within a couple of weeks. Additionally, it’s very difficult to convince a consumer to come back after they have had a bad experience with the product.

Lesson learned: functionality before complexity.

The ugly

Disregarding device functionalities

Although the consumers loved the use of augmented reality, it was quickly disabled. The game included too many features that drained phone batteries, which conflicted with the point of the game (searching for Pokémon for hours and hours).

Sure, the consumers tried to compensate with portable chargers but, in the end, it just became too much of an effort.

Niantic trashed some of their features and introduced a plus device the consumer could use on the move and without looking at their smartphone, but it was just too little, too late.

Lesson learned: No matter how sexy and innovative your product is, if it’s not user-friendly, the success will be short-lived.

Limiting user interaction

The internet is social, don’t you ever forget it. Consumers use it to communicate and share, with both friends and strangers. That’s why limiting user interaction is a bad idea. Social media sharing should be a given in any marketing campaign, but if you also make it possible for consumers to interact and contribute somehow, you will have hit a homerun.


When Niantic experienced a decrease in users, they responded by introducing new Pokémons from newer generations and arranged different promotions to the game, but that wasn’t what the players wanted. They wanted more freedom to interact with other players.

Lesson learned: Don’t exclude social features from your campaigns.

So there you have it, the top thing marketers should learn from the rise and fall of Pokémon Go. Interested in learning more about marketing trends? Have a look at our guide about dynamic content creation to see if it’s appropriate for your brand.

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