Rivi Bloch
Jan 31, 2018

Pokémon Go launch in China: Better late than never?

Some expect the AR game's China launch to disappoint. But Taptica's SVP for client services still sees a huge opportunity for marketers.

Pokémon Go launch in China: Better late than never?

You can call Pokémon Go many things but one box it definitely ticks is ‘phenomenon’. Within weeks of launch in the US and after barely a few days in the UK it had amassed 21 million daily active users, beating Candy Crush’s 20 million at its peak. Now, it’s ready to take on China.

The game, involving mobile users catching virtual Pokémon in real world locations using an augmented reality (AR) app, has players wandering the streets, converging on shops, restaurants, monuments and tourist attractions.

Marketers were quick to latch on to the app’s promotional potential. McDonald’s Japan turned restaurants into PokéGyms and PokéStops. The Gyms required players to train or battle for a period of time, handily increasing dwell time for the brand owner. In June 2016, the company’s CEO said that partnering with Niantic had definitely contributed to sales success in Japan.  

Bringing Pokémon Go to China could be a location marketing opportunity for brands that is second to none. China is both the world’s largest mobile market and has one of the largest gaming populations worldwide. Researchers have found that there are more gamers in the country than people in the United States.

There are challenges. China may have a huge population but the country is also predominantly rural. Pokémon Go is clearly most effective in urban areas; cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. It also relies heavily on Google and Facebook, both blocked. Finally, only iOS users can currently access the app.

But challenges are being ironed out and workarounds are underway. It’s time for marketers in China to look seriously at what the Pokémon Go platform offers.

In-game purchase is still big business and being AR-based, real world branding can add real value to the gaming experience. Pokémon Go will actively encourage users to engage with brands, by prompting them to go into a store to interact with the brand in return for an opportunity to catch unusual Pokémon or other in-game bonus. We’ve seen marketers in the US and UK investing in the in-game ‘Lure’ to attract special Pokémon to their location for this specific reason. The opportunity to engage with consumers in an authentic way is a unique and exciting proposition for many brands with brick and mortar stores.

The app is a hugely personal experience on a hugely personal device so it follows naturally that there are opportunities for brands to engage in personalisation. Incorporating messaging specific to the time of day, weather and location makes that personalisation even more powerful, not to mention returning vast amounts of contextual customer data back to the brand.

Push notifications and sharing relevant coupons via the app is another open opportunity for marketers. Finding ways to integrate these offerings into natural Pokémon Go game-play behaviours will pay off.

There is certainly a sense that opportunities are opening up to marketers across China through mobile apps but it also helps to make it part of the omnichannel universe. In Pokémon Go’s case, mobile advertising can work with TV commercials, billboards and subway advertising to build overall brand awareness.

Pokémon Go brings users into its world, Chinese marketers need to find ways of bringing Pokémon Go into theirs.

Rivi Bloch is SVP of client success at mobile marketing firm Taptica, based in Israel


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