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Case Study «Pokemon Go»: no-drama study this app’s viral PR-campaign

Tags: Digital-marketing, Content-marketing, Branding, Mobile apps analytics

Сначала разберемся!

While working in Russia its hard to get an objective review on your research, that is why I decided to translate my article in English. My goals are: 1) to discuss and get some extra information about this incredibly interesting case 2) to try to find out the author of this giant PR-project through the professional community.

Firstly, you should understand that there are 3 corporations with huge financial and PR-resources standing behind this game from Niantic: Nintendo, Google (Alphabet from 2015) and The Pokémon Company. They have enough experience and resources to make "the bomb of world interest" explode. And it has exploded.

Why I got interested in this case? Because the “tentacles” of this viral PR-campaign reached me even in the middle of Russia, where the game is still unavailable officially. All the TV-channes, internet portals are full of branded content, and people are confused: “what is this new thing?”

Especially I got interested in the case, when on the 21st of July I saw news at two russian TV-channels at the same time (one local, one federal), it was said that the “crowds of people are looking for a pokemon in the Central Park”. And the video was the same on both channels. Here I recognised familiar schemes of viral promotion. This is the way they act, when they want to spread viral information: they force to promote the main media-active (video in this case), place it in the center of media attention. But the thing is that the video is branded, it is about Pokemon GO, which is a commercial product, and the media is of course mentioning it. Not always in a positive way, but it will be definitely mentioned, and the way doesn’t matter, because the customer is getting a free media release anyway.

Last week, when I opened this discussion in a community of proffessionals, I didn’t get the appropriate support for my simple idea, that the game is actively promoted in the market, using awesome planned viral attack ads. Everyone is being focused on the product itself, natural concernment, crowds of fans. This is understandable. But I was particularly interested in PR-support of promoting the app. Its clear that it is not the only factor of the success, but it was specifically the PR-campaign that my research was focused on, because I am marketing and ad specialist first of all.

Surrounded by misunderstanding, I just sat down and in a couple of hours found some attack ads, that were released after the date of the app release. I divided it by days and analyzed the way the campaign was prepared. I can assure you that the professional of at least level 666 was working on it! Such scale and such release coordination might be possible only with a total control over the whole process by one person.

Of course, many contractors must be involved in such work, particularly the Junkin Media company was asked to create the Central Park viral ad («Viral videos are our world» — says their website), it is mentioned in the video description.

But my question to the professional community remains: who stands behind this PR-campaign? It would be great to find out because I’m pretty sure that no one is going to make the beautiful video for this case or go to the Cannes Festival with it. We are talking about crazy amounts of money here spent on PR-campaign and the influence of all this on the jumps of the Nintendo and Google (now Alphabet) stock price. Here are the graphs from July:

Stock prices are here: http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/goog/interactive-chart

Exact calculation for investors

Why so many resources were put into this PR-campaign? Because the investors had an obvious plan for the new app “Pokemon Go”:

  1. To base on the success of the Ingress game, which was developed by Niantic Labs company and is available on Android since 2012. Details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingress_(video_game)
  2. To involve the multimillion audience of the Pokemon Universe fans (provided by The Pokémon Company).
  3. To use all PR-channels that are available for an access to the market. And if we summarize PR-resources of Google, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company, there will be a huge coverage scale.

Excerpt from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niantic,_Inc: «The company spun out of Google in October 2015, soon after Google's announcement of its restructuring as Alphabet Inc. During the spinout, Niantic announced that Google, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company would invest up to $30 million in it to support the growth of the company and its products. In February 2016, Niantic announced that it secured an additional $5 million»

Here are the graphs about Ingress success started in 2012 (source). Even John Hanke is great fan of Ingress.

Two important terms for the technologies of viral media creation, to begin with:

  1. In any viral PR-campaign there is an incredibly important stage, which is called: “seeding content”. Seeding content - is a paid (or barter, or partner) placement of the newsbreak in the “seeding media”, which is supposed to be caught by people and other media for further spread. This “seeding” is called “Paid media” usually; placement within the own info-channels is called “Owned media”; and placement made for free is called “Earned media”
  2. The second term is “virality coefficient”. This coefficient shows how many unpaid views we get compared to "seeded" ones. For example, if we bought 1 million views on YouTube and the total number of views in given time was 2 million, that means that the virality coefficient equals two. This coefficient is applicable to any kind of information.

Signs of the content seeding:

  1. Immediate reaction. Which means that the information usually appears at many resources at the same time a few hours after the placement of the viral video (for example), which all these resources linkto.
  2. Media, where the information is placed. Perfect case is when the media is reputable, which is not known to place the information, that is unchecked or commercial.
  3. Title. It contains the name of the promoted product and exact message, which has to be picked up by other media.
  4. Content and the design of the news. "Seeding" newsbreak is usually designed in a good quality way, the pictures with logo and videos are inserted in it.

On the other hand a regular journalistic note (Earned media) is usually much more brief, consists of facts, random photos (not only one which is actively promoted, or a video), in regular news the brand won’t be mentioned and the description wouldn’t be filled with excitement as much.

In the Earned media the information spreading looks differently: reaction is delayed, the titles are simpler, news are brief and unemotional, the journalists are eager to look at the newsbreak from a different perspective. So, the second news wave, which is followed after seeding stage, is very easy to recognize by a small amount of the branded content. But no one is upset about it, because it is for free.

And now let’s get to the case study

Here is the graph from Google Trends for those who think that the virus appeared from nowhere. Here you can see that the trend started in September of 2015, and then continued from January of 2016. PR-campaign was being prepared very seriously.

Let’s begin the case study from the “july rally”, content seeding which started 1 day before the game release, then we’ll see how it all developed, and then see into the history of how the preparation of this campaign had been held. The feature of this PR-campaign is that almost all of the most famous world media were involved in it from the very beginning.

Here is the mini-map of newsbreak seedings through the largest world media arranged by date: https://docs.google.com

Everyone could find the first attack ads during the content seeding. just pick up any world famous media and make a search request “Pokemon” with the date of supposed start of the seeding, as on the screenshot. And you see all the first, perfectly branded releases, and after that arranged by dates there is a wave of «earned» releases, but with a several days delay.

Here is the mini-map of newsbreak seedings through the largest world media arranged by date:

July 5th, (1 day before release) 

Pokemon Go craze pushes Nintendo market value past 20bn
Nintendo shares surged by another 12.8% in Tokyo on Tuesday
Zlata Rodionova Tuesday 5 July 20160 comments

Pokémon Go is now rolling out for iOS and Android
By Nick Statt on July 5, 2016 09:29 pm Email @nickstatt

Pokémon Go is live on iOS and Android — but it’s not available worldwide yet

Pokémon Go goes live on iTunes and Google Play stores
By Michael McWhertor on Jul 05, 2016 at 9:38p @MikeMcWhertor

July 6th (release of the game) 

Pokémon Go now available on iOS and Android
AFP Relax News • July 6, 2016

Pokémon Go is live on iOS and Android — but it’s not available worldwide yet

Pokémon Go is now rolling out for iOS and Android
Nick Statt, 7/6/2016

Pokémon Go for iOS Not in Canada Yet, Rolling Out Worldwide
by Gary Ng on Wednesday, July 6th, 2016 — 9:09am PDT

Pokémon Go is now rolling out for iOS and Android
6th July 2016 MarshMary

US and Japanese Fans Told to “Wait for a While” for Pokemon GO Release
ByChris JecksPosted on July 6, 2016

News had this link: 
According to The Wall Street Journal, The Pokémon Company is recommending U.S. and Japan users “please wait for a while” for the app’s official launch in those markets.

cant believe the police are posting about pokemon go
kukkii @ SHEITH ZINE, ‏@isshikisenpai, 5:30 — July 6, 2016 г.

July 6, 2016 г, Trainer Tips
www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UFwzI6ArVg (8.1 million views on July 30, 2016. It is promoted video)

Pokémon GO — Get Up and Go!
6 июл. 2016 г.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWtDeeXtMZM (4.9 million views on July 30, 2016. It is promoted video)

Pokémon Go Has Been Spotted in the Wild
by Madeline Farber JULY 6, 2016, 4:35 PM EDT

July 7th (1 day after release) 

Pokemon Go app gains Arizona following on 1st day
Samantha Incorvaia, The Republic | azcentral.com 7:50 p.m. EDT July 7, 2016

This is why people won't shut up about 'Pokemon Go'
Hoai-Tran Bui, USATODAY, July 7

Everyone is already obsessed with 'Pokémon Go'
Brett Molina, USA TODAY 12:23 p.m. EDT July 7, 2016

Australian cops to Pokemon fans: Do not come looking for Pikachu in our police station
By Ben Guarino July 7 

'Pokemon GO' Hits #1 In App Store
JUL 7, 2016 @ 08:29 AM

Police urge people playing Pokémon GO to look before they cross roads

Stay away from our police station, Australian cops warn digital Pokemon hunters

‘Pokémon Go’ Beginner’s Guide: Catching, Battling And Everything You Need To Know
Thu, 07/07/2016 — 00:32 By Phillip Martinez

JEFF GRUBBJULY 7, 2016 9:30 AM
Pokémon Go rockets to the top of the App Store — and it’s already making bank

July 8th (2 day after release) 

By JACKY WONG July 8, 2016 11:55 a.m. ET
How Pokémon Helped Nintendo Crack the Mobile-Game Market

Bernard Lagan, Sydney, July 8 2016, 5:00pm, 
Pokémon GO players lay siege to Darwin police station

Pokémon GO: zombis digitales ponen en jaque a la Policía australiana
Publicado: 8 jul 2016 21:52 GMT

Nintendo shares jump as Pokémon app tops charts
JULY 8, 2016 by: Peter Wells

Nintendo surges on ‘Pokémon Go’ fever
JULY 8, 2016 by: Leo Lewis in Tokyo

Panthers get into Pokemon Go action at Bank of America Stadium

July 9th (3 day after release) 

How 'Pokémon GO' Can Lure More Customers To Your Local Business
JUL 9, 2016 @ 02:44 PM

Teen playing Pokémon Go stumbles upon dead body

Teen hunting for Pokemon finds a body instead

Bernard Lagan, Sydney, July 9 2016, 12:00am
Police find it virtually impossible to keep up with Pokémon

July 10th (4 day after release) 

Armed robbers use Pokémon Go to target victims
Lauren Apetz, WBIR 4:48 p.m. EDT July 10, 2016

'Pokemon Go' players are flocking to sports stadiums to catch more Pokemon

Pokemon Go popping up in stadiums all over the country

Man searching for Pokémon at 3am caught up in 'drug deal' mix-up

Pokémon GO finally live on Apple iOS and Android smartphones across the world
NINTENDO'S new mobile Pokémon game is live and free-to-play on iOS and Android phones right now. 
By James Wright / Published 10th July 2016

July 11th (5 day after release) 

Pokémon Go users explore the real world with augmented reality app

Pokémon Go Brings Augmented Reality to a Mass Audience

Pokemon Go Is Already Bigger Than Tinder
by Don Reisinger @donreisinger JULY 11, 2016, 10:40 AM EDT

How to get Pokémon Go right now in the UK on Android
Monday 11 July 2016 11.28 BST

Pokémon Go is doing what few apps can – driving real-world traffic
Jul 11, 2016 by Darrell Etherington (@etherington)

July 12th (6 day after release) and the older dates

Pokémon Go Brings Real Money to Random Bars and Pizzerias
Polly Mosendz, July 12, 2016

Pokémon Go review: not a good game… but a great experience

Pokémon Go: Australian users report server problems due to high demand

An early investor in the company behind ‘Pokémon Go’ has a big vision for where it’s going next
LARA O'REILLY JUL. 12, 2016, 10:58 PM

Pokémon Go likely more than a summer fad for gaming industry


Story of using the game for businesses
It starts from the 12th of July (6 day after release)

First article:
What Brands Can Learn From Pokémon Go
July 12th 2016 By John Dangles

How Pokémon Go will level up local advertising
Adam Dorfman on July 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

Level Up Your Marketing with Pokémon Go Forecasts
Posted by Forecast Factor on July 19, 2016 at 9:39 pm

Viral story about Central Park, from July 15th
July 15th (9 day after release)
Viral video has published to Vimeo and YouTube by different accounts at the same time:

vimeo.com/174821377 (5.2 million views on July 30, 2016. It is promoted video)
Author: Woodzys. «Joined 2 weeks ago» on on July 30
www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLdWbwQJWI0 (4,3 million views on July 30, 2016. It is promoted video)
Author: Dennis450D (this is old empty channel has only single video)

Pokémon Go: Rare catch causes a Central Park stampede
BY EVAN SLEAD • @EVANSLEAD, Posted July 15 2016 — 8:12 PM EDT

Pokémon Go players form stampede to catch rare Pokémon
They've gone wild for wild Pokémon
By Allegra Frank on Jul 15, 2016 at 6:30p @LegsFrank

Massive crowd begins stampeding after spotting rare Pokemon in Central Park
By: Luke Kerr-Dineen | July 16, 2016 7:59 am

Pokemon Go: Crowd Stampedes Through Central Park After Rare Vaporeon Sighting
July 16, 2016 @ 3:24 PM, By Joyce Chen

Chaos in Central Park as gamers leap out of their cars and leave their engines running to catch a rare POKEMON

WATCH: Stampede of ‘Pokemon Go’ Players Try to Catch Vaporeon in Central Park
Published 11:18 am EDT, July 16, 2016 Updated 6:04 pm EDT, July 16, 2016

Pokemon Go: Huge crowd of players rush into Central Park to catch Vaporeon
ROBIN DE PEYER Saturday 16 July 2016

Pokémon Go Vaporeon Stampede, Central Park, NY. (player.vimeo.com)
16 Jul 2016, dor_tzur, 5638

Pokemon Go: Video shows moment rare Vaporeon appears in Central Park and all hell breaks loose
Will Worley @willrworley Saturday 16 July 2016

A Vaporeon Spotting in Central Park Caused a Pokémon Trainer Stampede
Ethan Jacobs (Ethan is a culture writer in New York. Twitter: @EthanReedJacobs), JUL 16, 2016

Super Rare Pokémon Sighting Causes Legit Stampede in Central Park. It ain't easy being an Eevee evolution.
By Laura Beck, Jul 17, 2016

Vaporeon stampede Central Park, NYC
Geeks Empire, 17 июл 2016 в 3:34 через Vimeo • 204 599 просмотров

Vaporeon: Rare Pokemon Causes Stampede Of Players In Central Park — Watch
Sun, July 17, 2016 11:45am EDT by Lauren Cox

How was the PR-campaign prepared? Looking into the history up to 2014

Now let’s dig into the history, because it is hard to reach such results of PR-campaign without a well-made preparation ahead of time.

June 2016, preceded campaign 

Will Pokémon Go make you want to catch 'em all, all over again?
Alex Hern, Friday 10 June 2016 14.00 BST

Want to Capture a Pokémon? Look Behind That Tree

How Pokémon Go brings the pocket monsters to your neighborhood

I played the new Pokemon Go for iPhone/Android and it’s awesome
Posted Jun 10, 2016 by Greg Kumparak (@grg)

Pokemon Go could be released by the end of July, Go Plus accessory to cost $35
Posted Jun 15, 2016 by Greg Kumparak (@grg)

Pokemon Go Smartphone Game to Be Released Soon
by Benjamin Snyder @WriterSnyder JUNE 16, 2016, 4:00 PM EDT

To Be The Very Best: Pokémon Enters Into Augmented Reality
June 30, 20169:01 AM ET

The Things We Discovered While Playing Pokémon Go 
Mike Fahey 6/30/16 9:10am

By Nick Statt on June 10, 2016 09:00 am
This is Pokémon Go, the ambitious AR game bringing pocket monsters to life

Pokémon Go will be available in July for iOS and Android
By Nick Statt on June 15, 2016 02:39 pm

Playing Pokémon Go on your phone is fun and frustrating at the same time
By Nick Statt on June 30, 2016 09:00 am

Spring of 2016 

Pokemon Go «Field Test» Sign-Ups Go Live in Japan, Other Regions Coming Later
by Eddie Makuch on March 4, 2016

By Andrew Webster on March 21, 2016 11:23 am
This could be the first look at Pokemon Go

By Andrew Webster on March 24, 2016 10:45 am
New details give us a better idea of how Pokemon Go will look and play

Niantic raises $5 million to forge ahead with Pokémon Go

Funding Snapshot: Gaming Company Niantic Adds $5M to Series A Round
Updated Feb. 25, 2016 5:50 p.m. ET

Beginning of 2016, 20th anniversary of Pokemon Universe.

#Pokemon20: Pokémon Super Bowl Commercial
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2F46tGehnfo (25 million views on July 30, 2016. It is promoted video)

The Surprising Way Pokémon Is Celebrating its 20th Anniversary
by Benjamin Snyder @WriterSnyder JANUARY 14, 2016, 11:59 AM EDT

You Can Now Watch Pokémon's Super Bowl Ad
by Benjamin Snyder @WriterSnyder JANUARY 25, 2016, 5:26 PM EDT

Pokemon 20th Anniversary: A Definitive Ranking of the Six Generations
by Jonathon Dornbush, Entertainment Weekly FEBRUARY 26, 2016, 9:49 AM EDT

Pokémon's Super Bowl ad channels every great Nike and Adidas commercial
By Ross Miller on January 25, 2016 11:56 am

Announcements in 2015

Nintendo is making smartphone games with Japanese mobile giant DeNA
By Sam Byford on March 17, 2015 03:36 am Email @345triangle

Discover Pokémon in the Real World with Pokémon GO!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sj2iQyBTQs 35.4 million views on July 30, 2016. It is promoted video)

You'll be able to play Pokémon in the real world next year
by Benjamin Snyder @WriterSnyder SEPTEMBER 10, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

Pokémon Go for iOS and Android brings Pokémon into the real world
By Sam Byford on September 10, 2015 02:21 am

Up close with Nintendo's Pokémon Go Plus wearable
By Sam Byford on September 10, 2015 04:32 am

Pokémon GO Press Conference 
10 сент 2015
www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUlX77BKLyY (1.6 млн на 23 июля 2016))

With Pokémon Go, Nintendo is showing that it takes mobile seriously
By Andrew Webster on September 10, 2015 08:30 am 

2014, first mentions

Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge 
31 мар. 2014 г.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YMD6xELI_k (19 million views on July 30, 2016. It is promoted video)

Pokémon Master is probably the easiest job to land at Google
By Colin Lecher on June 17, 2014 06:27 pm @colinlecher

If you need more links
, check this file: https://docs.google.com...



You should understand that I’ve found only the most open part of this PR-campaign. But any of you who read this can find similar posts at other media resources. The simple way to make it through Google is described in the beginning of the article.

I’d like you to pay attention to:

  • The speed and the spreading power of informational pressure (and I’ve found only the top of the iceberg).
  • The content of "seeding" newsbreaks, most of them has “viral” content for the purpose of other media to catch and spread it.

Its too early to make any conclusions or judge the game itself. In the analysis, that I present in the article, I’ve tried to collect specifically the first information releases (content seeding), excluding the releases in Earned media. It makes it possible to follow the logic of the app PR-campaign development.

The goals of my article:

  • To pay attention to the work of worlds best PR-professionals and try to study their work publicly from the professional perspective.
  • Personal: if someone knows the person, who stands behind this campaign, I’d appreciate the link (in the comments below or in the private message) to his account, website or vimeo channel to follow his projects and learn from him.

You can find me: fb.com/denis.sergeev | linkedin.com/in/sergeevdenis

Denis Sergeev, owner of titansoft.ru and web2win.ru


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