Pokémon was the craze back in the late 90s. There were all sorts of Pokémon games released for home consoles, not to mention those collector cards that fans fell in love with. All these years later, Pokémon has been revived with the release of Pokémon GO.

What is Pokémon GO and what does it have to do with event planning? Well, as you  are about to find out, the trending downloadable game provides a very important lesson on how to market an event.

What Is Pokémon GO?

Pokémon GO is a free downloadable mobile game. Like the primary objective of the Pokémon world, the goal is to capture all the Pokémon monsters. To do this, players have to physically traverse different geographical regions in the real world. Using GPS tracking and location awareness technology, the mobile device can identify specific landmarks.

With this concept, the player will actually have to go to a nearby body of water if they want to capture marine-based Pokémon. Likewise, to capture nocturnal or ghost Pokémon, they have to play the game outside during evening hours.

Pokemon Go pics

So, just how popular is Pokémon GO? Well, for starters, the game reached the number one spot in U.S. sales charts within 13 hours of its release. Within four days of release, 10.81% of Android phone users had downloaded the game.

Location awareness technology on the rise

It should be stressed that Pokémon GO isn’t the first game that uses location awareness technology and augmented reality. Ingress was another video game that took advantage of the mobile technology, though that title never really took off. Pokémon GO’s massive success is due to the technology from Ingress, combined with a globally popular franchise.

With augmented reality, players rely on their camera phone for a visual graphical interface of the world in front of them. In Pokémon GO, players gaze through the screen to find creatures hidden out and about. The location awareness technology knows when you are pointing the phone at the sky, and it will use that identification to make a flying Pokémon appear. Similarly, if you point toward the grass, the technology will recognise that and make a bug Pokémon come out.

As the sophistication and adoption of location based technology increases, so will it’s utility for event managers too. Layer on top augmented reality and you can really see how the underlying technologies driving Pokémon GO could be translated into the events space.

Why event gamification is important

Gamification is all about creating engagement, and any seasoned event planner knows that guest interaction is the key to a successful event. Gamification is on the rise and show no signs of relenting. In 2015, the gamification market was a $1.7 billion industry. The figure is expected to increase to $5.5 billion by 2018.

When it comes to events, gamification has enormous potential for creating proactive attendees. Event apps, for example, can be customised and utilise the same augmented reality technology to create some sort of game or scavenger hunt as an icebreaker. You can even award experience points or digital trophies to participants that perform exceptionally and reward them with a prize, such as a discount code for your company e-store.

Related: How a mobile event app can help attendees get the most out of your event

What event planners can Learn from Pokémon GO

There’s a few takeaway lessons to be learned from the mega success of Pokémon GO. Here’s a few points to keep in mind:

  1. Brand recognition is hugely important

Pokémon GO and Ingress are both similar games, so why did one become a worldwide trend while the other faded into oblivion? The answer is simple: The Pokémon franchise is huge. Millennials in their late 20s and early 30s remember back in the day when the series was a Saturday morning favourite. The franchise is so huge that it has spawned a motion picture, character appearances in other game series, numerous comic books, and even a full-scale theme park in Japan.

Related: 6 ways to engage millennials at your event

Pokémon GO itself is a good game, but it was ultimately its name that catapulted it to the level of success its creators never imagined.

With this in mind, use your event to heavily promote your brand; and spend time getting your event branding right. The more people are aware of your company logo, the more likely they are to become active consumers.

  1. Timing matters

Pokémon GO was released at the start of the summer. This was a strategic move because this is the time of the year when people are spending more time outdoors. With school out and multiple festivals, the timing couldn’t have been more ideal. It’s hard to imagine that such a level of success could have been possible if creators decided on a winter launch.

In addition, the Pokémon series is also celebrating its 20th anniversary, which definitely brings about a nostalgia factor for those who grew up on the series.

Think about how timing relates to your event. Are there certain times of the year or days of the week that is preferable for hosting your event? Are there any special occasions arriving, such as the company’s anniversary or a major milestone like a merger or acquisition?

  1. The brand sells itself

Did you see any promos for Pokémon GO? Sure, you may have seen a preview on YouTube, but very few people were actually aware of the game until it was released and people began downloading it and talking about it on social media.

This proves that you don’t need a heavy marketing budget to make your event a success. If you have been slowly cultivating brand awareness through social media outlets, then the brand will sell itself. Your followers will trust your brand much the same way people remain loyal to the Pokémon franchise even after all these years.

In essence, it’s more important to have a brand or product that connects with the people rather than spending grandiose sums of money for a huge marketing stint that may not even result in the desired conversions.

Related: 10 ways to increase your brand awareness in 2016

  1. Reward loyalty

Pokémon GO rewards players for specific actions, such as capturing a rare Pokémon, or capturing a particular Pokémon that required traveling to a certain area. A lot of video games these days do this. Players are rewarded with all sorts of prizes for completing a variety of actions, such as completing the game under a certain amount of time or on the hardest difficulty level. Prizes may include various unlockables like hidden costumes, side missions, or a secret game ending.

How can you reward those who attend your events? The key is to reward loyalty. With that in mind, show appreciation to your most loyal consumers. Perhaps you can offer a free VIP upgrade to those who attended all of your past events, or give exclusive customised event swag to attendees who are signed up with your loyalty program.

Related: 4 ways to turn your superfans into super promoters

  1. Low learning curve

Pokémon GO is a relatively simple game that anyone can immediately get into without undergoing a gameplay tutorial. Players simply walk about and stay alert for their phone vibrating, indicating the presence of a nearby Pokémon.

Your event should also be easy to get into. Beginning from the registration process, attendees shouldn’t be left guessing what to do next or what to expect at the event. They should have a complete breakdown of the schedule and other details like parking information, the venue layout, presentation times, etc.


Pokemon GO isn’t just a game. It represents the latest in mobile technology and how that technology can be used in the business sphere. For event planners, there is a lot to be learned from a video game that has taken the world by storm.

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