POKEMON Go viral growth

How did Pokémon Go game become Viral ?

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play (offering in-app purchases) location-based augmented reality mobile game available for iOS and Android devices. It was developed by Niantic and published by The Pokémon Company as part of the Pokémon franchise. It was released on July 6, 2016.

Pokémon Go succeeded in few days to surpass many big startups in terms of daily active users, and have almost overtaken Twitter within 3 days. Now after 20 days the game have been installed more than 75 million times, all while being only available for 30% of potential market, and without being featured on the Google Play or the App Store in any country (according to Sensor Tower).

pokemon go daily active users

So the question on everybody’s mind:

How did Pokémon Go become Viral ?

Before understanding the mechanism behind the viral growth of Pokémon Go, we need to understand the product:

And the product can be defined by 3 Words:

The 1st word is “Google”: Google team made the app, to be exact, Niantic, Inc the company that developed Pokémon Go, was an internal startup within Google, it was spun out of as an independent entity in October 2015. So you would expect that the product would be: smooth, bug free, well conceived and would offer a top notch experience.
Furthermore before offering a deal to Pokémon to use their franchise, Niantic developed a game that has almost identical features. In other words Niantic is not your typical small startup, but it’s a google powered machine.

The 2nd word is “Nintendo”: In the world of gaming, the 3 major players are Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo, thus Nintendo have a huge following of gamers, ready to jump on the next bandwagon, whatever the bandwagon is.

The 3rd word is “Pokémon“: There was a craze about pokémon since early 1998 and that lasted many years (games, cards, cartoon series & movies), kind of like the Angry birds craze from a couple years ago. This means there are an army of nostalgic people ready, to be in the shoes of Ash Ketchum, and the AR (augmented reality) experience would allow this to be possible.

The mechanism behind the viral growth of Pokémon Go :

Successful apps, games and startups usually credit their success to successful Viral Marketing campaign, successful Growth hacking tactics (gamification) or their ability to create Buzz through the press & PR.

Pokémon Go, is no exception, but in their case, creating buzz through the press was the way to go, especially that they had huge reservoirs of nostalgic fans in their 20’s and 30’s that can be reached easily through press.

So the first step was creating hundreds of PR stunts skeptical news reports and internet stories:
– People getting into car accidents because they stopped the car to catch a pokemon.- People finding dead bodies while playing Pokémon Go.
– A guy catching a pokemon while wife is in hospital, giving birth.
– Thieves louring victims playing PokemonGo
– People getting fired from jobs etc..

Yes most of these stories are negative, but as they say, “There is no such thing as bad publicity”, and in this case the objective was to reach as many potential fans as possible, and there’s nothing better than shocking stories to do that.

The second step was to amplify the reach, and make even the not so big fans of pokémon, wanna try it. To do that they needed to focus on the viral growth news, as i always say “To go viral, you need to be viral!”, telling stories truths and half truths about how the app is going viral was actually making the app go viral.

The third element is obviously working with influential people via blog vlog outreach , also i wouldn’t be surprised if Google was involved in promoting it on google play store or promoting the youtube videos etc..

Yes the game is the first successful AR game novelty, is free and have some level of gamification, feeds the herding part of our brain, and gives us the feeling that we are achieving something, but all these are minor factors in it’s virality. The real factors is curiosity which was created by the huge media attention add to that the pokémon factor and social network effect, (this game have succeeded in creating a limited social network effect) where friends try to compete or collaborate with their friends.


Failed Viral Video Ads

Some Ads and commercial are so good that the videos go viral, example: most of the Superbowl ads , but other Video Ads are failed attempts to create buzz and never really become viral videos, so here we’ll try to compile a list of some of the video ads by big corporations that simply failed to go viral.

By failed, i do not mean it in the sense that there was a blooper or accident, like what you would watch on a live commercial / QVC style:

Nor do i mean the infomercial was bad or for a weird product:

No, i mean there is a concept failure for a legitimate brand. The video concept were wrong or not well thought through, which led to failed viral video ads. Meaning the ads might have reached a lot of people but they had no effect or even worse they were of very bad taste.

Failed Viral Video Ads

Facebook commercial from 2012, the social network’s first, which declared that “chairs are like Facebook.”
Watch the ad below and decide whether it makes any sense to you, and now imagine if it will to the global public!!

Burger King’s “Wake up with a King” aired in 2004, the ad created a lot of word of mouth due to it’s creepy “King”, furthermore questions were raised, who eats a hamburger for breakfast! This ad was followed by a series of ads portraying the King, but the campaign did not improve sales and was eventually ended in 2011.

Skittles “Touch the rainbow” aired in 2008 or before. The Ad is sad, dark and depressing when you think about it,
the guy basically kills anyone he touches, his family, kids, etc … and he’s probably on a Skittles only diet! So yeah what were they thinking!

Microsoft’s attempt to get people to have launch parties for Windows 7. First we have no idea what do we have here, a family with the brother and the mother? work colleagues? neighbors? nobody knows …
What exactly are they expecting ? The message is unclear, too long and confusing, furthermore there’s no way you get people to become your brand ambassadors with a simple video.
Furthermore a black male / white female interracial couple does not make a good fit for commercials, as it create strong negative feelings from both the white males and black females (see link).


PopChips had a weird idea, yep i’m warning you it’s pretty weird, makes no sense and most definitely has nothing to do with “chips”!

And in this one we see Groupon trying to take advantage of a political issue/struggle and failing miserably at doing so. The Ad was aired during the 2011 Superbowl.


This list is open for further addition as we stumble on more bad or failed viral Ads or commercials.