Maybe you’ve seen a ton of posts about it on social media in the last week. Or maybe you’ve suddenly noticed random herds of people in your neighborhood crowding around certain areas. Or that lady that walks her dog twice a day is suddenly walking it every 15 minutes. In the last week, Pokémon Go, an augmented reality experience from Nintendo, has gotten millions of people around the world up and about, and, according to some reports, created billions of dollars in added value to the Nintendo franchise.
You don’t have to understand Pokémon (I certainly don’t), to be awed by the speed of light spread and audience engagement of this phenomenon.
In one fell swoop, this augmented reality experience has managed to accomplish what many marketers and engagement departments both on the commercial and nonprofit side have been trying to get at for years:
- Millions of people are exercising. Posts abound on social media about exhausted pets that are being walked, folks being surprised at how much they walked just “hunting” the Pokémon. (How many organizations have come up with apps, experience, tips, etc., to get people moving and exercising with this kind of success?)
- Audiences that are hard to get at are very engaged. From Gen Xers and GenYers who grew up with Pokémon in the 90s enjoying the experience themselves, to parents of children who are also into Pokémon, the much coveted demographic of the mobile-savvy, digitally-engaged, with some expendable income has been mobilized by this experience.
- Neighbors are meeting each other and communities are “coming together” to hunt Pokémon. Someone in my neighborhood reported seeing more people than ever in a local park, and people are actually talking to each other. A video game, which typically has a stigma of keeping people indoors and glued to their TV, now has people getting outside and interacting. Neighbors are meeting neighbors for the first time.
- Campaigns are organizing and engaging supporters in-person. With an election year upon us, political groups are even getting in on the action to raise awareness, drive engagement and get voters out to vote. Again, it’s another example of communities coming together in a physical sense, and coming together around a specific cause.
What other digital experience in recent memory has been able to accomplish this much in one game?
While this is still very new, it certainly brings to mind some interesting thought exercises as they pertain to our industry:
- We have tried, perhaps not wholeheartedly, but certainly tried, to leverage gamification to deliver our various mission imperatives. The success of Pokémon Go may indicate, as I have previously suspected, that rather than creating an experience unique to a specific organization, organizations should perhaps partner with their commercial-side brethren to imbue mission into what’s already popular with the public at large. Imagine for a minute if there were special Pokémon that were specific to certain nonprofits and participants could hunt under special circumstances, or if part of finding that Pokémon was somehow tied to a donation to a nonprofit? Not only could this expand the reach of nonprofits, but also could help forge the corporate partnerships which nonprofits are very focused on these days.
- Think about ways in which you can incorporate your location into the game. This could be the location of your office, or location of an event you have coming up. If you are a mobile or a brick and mortar venue, check out this great article on how to drive traffic and engage at a relatively low cost.
- We must start having conversations (and some already are) about the advent of augmented and virtual reality. While augmented vs. virtual are different concepts, both are starting to take hold. The rise of cheaper technologies like Google cardboard is going to make virtual worlds increasingly accessible to anyone with a smartphone. How nonprofits leverage the virtual experience will be our next frontier. From mission-building, to expanding opportunities for virtual event participation, to embedding opportunities to donate, we must start mobilizing, at least in thought, around these concepts so that we are not late for the bus of this consumer trend — as we have been in the past with email, mobile, and social adoption.