What Small Businesses Can Learn from Pokémon Go’s Success

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By now, you know the obvious tricks to getting Pokémon Go on the side of your business. Promotions, gym battles, placing lures, and designing weird Pokémon-themed items like Snorlaxatives. Those are great ways to capitalize on the current hype train, but when December rolls around, who knows if those will still be useful.

Today, I want to talk about how the lessons of Pokémon Go’s success – from the Nintendo side of things, specifically – can help you get more out of your business over the long run. We’ll look at how Nintendo turned a 20-year-old bit of intellectual property into a smash hit and how rooting around in the cellar can sometimes unearth piles of gold.

pokemon go

First, how did we get here? And by “here” I obviously mean in the middle of the field, yelling at your phone because a yellow electricity rat just disappeared.

Nintendo keeps the Pokémon brand alive

Back in 2014, Nintendo released the last major Pokémon video game pairing, Pokémon Omega Ruby/Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. According to VGChartz, a video game sales tracker, that game sold about 10.5 million units worldwide. The release before that hit close to 14 million in sales. In total, there have been ten games that crossed the 10 million sales barrier with only two surpassing 20 million.

No matter how you look at it, it’s still an impressive line-up. Almost 250 million total sales across the franchise history.

As of today, Pokémon Go is seeing over 20 million daily users play on their mobile devices. This is a game that came out two weeks ago in the US, based on a piece of intellectual property that hit the market two decades ago. Since the game launched, Nintendo’s stock has risen about 120 percent and the company is generating something in the neighborhood of $1.9 million per day.

Never leaving the spotlight

Over the last 20 years, Nintendo made a series of decisions that really helped make the success of today possible. The most important of these decisions was to never let Pokémon completely fade from view.

Apart from the games coming out every two to three years, there have been trading card games, a popular animated series, an ad at this year’s Super Bowl, and 19 movies, according to Wikipedia. That seems incredibly high. Of course, that generates revenue on a regular basis, but what it really does is keep the fan-base growing.

Nintendo – to be fair, Nintendo is just the most well-known of the three companies that manage the Pokémon brand and holds 32% of the Pokémon Co. – has made fans over 20 years. Even without Pokémon Go, my kid could easily be a Pokémon fan despite having been born 18 years after the brand came out. It’s the same trick that Star Wars has played for almost 30 years.

The lesson for businesses: Never stop talking about the good things you do.

The work you’ve done still has value

Recycling the work you’ve already done isn’t some new trick that Nintendo just happened upon, major businesses have been doing it for years. Usually, we’re talking about turning longstanding patents into new money through licensing or litigation, but there are ways to make this work at the small business level too.

Actually, Starbucks has done a great job of this with its Pumpkin Spice Latte. Here’s a product that was likely designed to be a seasonal one-off, but it’s turned into the fall face of the company.

Remember that burger you did last year that people loved? Fire it back up on a limited basis. The website you made for last year’s Turkey Trot can be updated for this year. That interesting little feature in your first app can make its way into the new one. There is plenty of room for growth in the things you’ve already thought up. Heck, take that relatively boring summer sale and slap a fancy name on it – now, it’s an event.

Final thoughts

Look, this seems like an incredibly easy thing to do. I’m telling you that the key to Nintendo’s success and to your potential success is to rehash some stuff that you’ve already done. There are three keys here.

1)      You have to actually do this thing. If you look out in your back yard and there are three hundred prefect strawberries, you don’t have those berries until you go back out there and actually pick them. Right now, you have access to berries, but you don’t really have the berries.

2)      Getting value out of your existing property requires a systematic approach. You if you’re keeping the brand in the front of the customers’ minds, you can’t do it on a hit-and-miss system. Weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever – there has to be a plan in place.

3)      Some things aren’t very good. You made a bunch of horrible burgers in your search for a good one. Some people liked those bad things, but you have to have the insight to know that niche wins aren’t worth chasing. Nintendo’s not out there keeping the torch lit for Little Samson, even though some people loved it.

To make the most out of the things you’ve already planted, think through your hits and misses, talk to customers, and find something that’s still got room to grow. If you can hunt one of those properties down, you can have your own Pokémon Go moment. I mean – it’s going to be on a much smaller scale, but you get the idea. Good luck.

Looking for software? Check out Capterra's list of the best software solutions.

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Andrew Marder

Andrew Marder is a former Capterra analyst.

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[…] The above chart shows the traffic over a two-week period for a single piece of content that we launched, producing over 100,000 unique pageviews. Not only that, but it also netted over 500 backlinks from over 300 different domains. This includes the likes of TheNextWeb, Inc, Android Authority, Games Radar and Capterra. […]

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