On a downcast July afternoon last year, one of the agency’s clients sent me a text. It read “Can you look into Pokemon Go and see if we can leverage it to bring people instore? My friends say that it is the future of marketing.” I texted back: “Lol!”
Two days ago, I found this message on my phone while I was looking for some other information. As soon as I read it, I had a good chuckle. And then, I curiously Googled: “is Pokemon Go still a thing?” The LA Times reported last month that the game is still profitable and continues to generate buzz. But, the problem with this and several other news articles I read was that none of them had included the word, ‘marketing’.
Pokémon Go, by default, wasn’t an earth-shattering game. It used the simple premise of Augmented Reality and built a platform on it. If anything, the latest game update should have revived it with an advanced gameplay. But that never came through and the game continues to rot in its own basicness. Niantic announced recently that a sizeable update will arrive in the coming months and will revitalize Pokémon Go. Yeah, I don’t think so!
Last year, people were hailing Pokémon Go for something that wasn’t about the game. As the game grew popular last summer (or spring, depending on where you were when it all happened), many blogs and health-associated websites came to the game’s defence. I remember that Huffington Post once wrote “Pokémon helps cure loneliness by bringing people out of their homes and onto the streets where they seek out and bond with fellow gamers.” I think HuffPo confused Pokémon Go with Tinder.
When news journalism sank, it took photojournalism along. Photographers suddenly turned the lens away from the crime on the streets and the lying politicians to the hordes of gamers who had come together in New York and in Taiwan, and to world leaders, celebrities and dignitaries who were all spotted playing the game. Fortune reported that the game might actually make you happier and more active as it makes you get off the couch. And last year, Psychology Today, one of the vile and irreparable websites you’d ever visit (second to BuzzFeed), released this gem: How Pokémon Go Helps Mental Health.
Here’s the thing: Pokémon Go isn’t revolutionary. For centuries, kids have been going out to play football or tennis or even, take a walk on a sunny day. We know for a fact that technology has disabled us in more ways than we can imagine. Why wait for the internet to tell you about it, when you knew what to do all along. What we’ve uncovered so far was that Pokémon Go was a fad at best, just like the Harlem Shake and Gangnam Style. And, when you want a session in cringe, you go to your old buddies at the advertising agencies. They never let you down, do they.
Ad Age, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Search Engine Land and even the American Marketing Association have written multiple articles on how a game on your phone is disrupting marketing and breaking new ground in digital marketing, and redefining B2C marketing. The only thing that these articles do is pull you into the vast and ever expanding arena of nothingness. Absent-minded marketers and click-hungry marketing blogs often exploit these fads and predict a future that’s never coming.
Every year, we have one or more fads. Pokémon Go wasn’t even the most cringe-worthy fad of 2016. Later that year, the Mannequin Challenge came into prominence and marketers called it the “next best thing”. Year on year, people are looking to replace digital marketing but they can’t seem to differentiate between a fad and reality. Simply put, people’s perception of digital marketing today has reduced to something banal.
I’m often asked by clients and prospects as to how we will break barriers to create something new. I often shrug and ignore that question when I could have simply responded: “we already broke barriers with digital marketing. What else do you need?”