Jumping on a viral hit before it flames out

By Kathleen Williams, APR

This is how fast things change in our world:

Two weeks ago, no one, outside of Nintendo and Niantic, had heard of Pokémon Go. Today, who hasn’t heard of the virtual reality game that swept the U.S. by storm, added $17 billion to Nintendo’s bottom line, and prompted kids and adults to actually go outside and explore their communities (albeit with sometimes unsettling discoveries).

Kathleen Williams, APR, is communications coordinator & PIO for Clermont County.

Kathleen Williams, APR, is communications coordinator & PIO for Clermont County.

Pokémon Go also presented a fantastic opportunity for PR pros to jump on an instant phenomenon. Spotting a pop culture moment like this, and harnessing it quickly for your company/organization/ client, is one of the ways pros can distinguish themselves, put their companies in the limelight  – and have some fun at the same time.

Here is a look at how some Cincinnati retailers and non-profits responded:

Tom+Chee: The Cincinnati location on Court Street is next to a Poke Stop, a place where players collect items in the game, such as Pokéballs. Corey Ward, who runs marketing for the chain, used that to spur business during slow times by offering a free drink and other specials (Poké lures) to players who came by the store.

Cincinnati Art Museum: The Art Museum jumped on Pokémon Go Quickly, said Jill Dunne, Director of Communications and Marketing. It promoted the museum via Facebook with this clever post: Gotta catch ’em all! Be sure to stop by CAM to play#PokemonGo and enjoy some beautiful art! CAM has multiple Poke Stops and a Gym onsite, so there are plenty of #Pokemon to catch-like this Caterpie we found in Antiquities near the REC! 

Jungle Jim’s Fairfield: The iconic grocery store jumped into the game with a huge splash, even posting a map of all the Poké Stop and Poké Gym locations in the store. The quick-thinking outlet set up a Meetup for July 20 for a Pokémon Battle for the Monorail Station, complete with its own Facebook page.

Cincinnati Zoo: The zoo offered 26 Poké Stops, two gyms and countless ‪Pokémon roaming the grounds. And it added: “Don’t forget to look up so you can see the real animals around you. And, please stay on the paths for the safety of our visitors and animals. Have fun!”

I asked Jill Dunne how the Art Museum decided to capitalize on Pokémon Go:

“Within a week after the game went live, everyone under the age of 30 seemed to be playing, including most of my co-workers. They told me that Cincinnati Art Museum had three Poké Stops on site and a Poké Gym. So it made sense to use it to our advantage immediately. I talked to my marketing team and we started plotting and planning ways to take advantage of this surge of interest in the game. We started with some social media posts and we began to research other ways to use the game to drive attendance to our museum.

What kind of results did you see? Did it bump up traffic?

“The Cincinnati Art Museum and our grounds are monitored very closely. We had reports from our guards on duty at night that we were seeing significant increases of visitors to the Poké Stops. Anecdotally, we’ve heard that visitors are playing inside our museum as well, and we are welcoming it (while also ensuring that no art is at risk if people are on their phone while they visit). It’s too soon to be able to fully track the impact on attendance, but even bringing in one visitor who normally wouldn’t enter the museum would be a great thing. We are looking into paying for lures or creating a ‘party’ around Pokémon Go. If we do spend marketing dollars to promote something like this, we’ll be tracking our results very carefully!”

Two weeks from now, Pokémon Go may be a footnote, another example of a viral fad that caught fire and flamed out just as quickly. But the lesson for PR professionals is to fan a little bit of that flame while you can. Brainstorm with your colleagues the next time you spot an ‘insta-craze’ developing. Ask:

  • Does it make sense to jump on this? Quickly assess the pros and cons.
  • How can we tailor it for our company or client to make us part of it, and to help our organization benefit?
  • How do we engage our customers in this and make them a part of it as well? 

From Ragan PR Daily: 3 ways brand managers can jump on Pokemon Go