What Trade Show Marketing can Learn from Pokemon Go


I must admit, this Pokemon Go craze is lost on me. The character’s weren’t appealing when it debuted to my age group in the late 1990s, and seeing it create zombies out of my friends and family still today makes it all the more baffling. However, you do not have to like a trend, or even understand the appeal it has to identify what drives it.

It is important to recognize that the core principles popularizing this game are the same as any fad. With a little creative brainstorming, your team can come up with a clever way to capitalize on that energy with your particular brand.

“But this is a silly game – how can my business learn anything from this?” The biggest observation to takeaway is that there must always be ways to generate brand loyalty. If millions of children and adults alike can be coaxed into looking for nonexistent creatures, there must be a way to persuade that same energy into interacting with your company.

Now..Let’s ‘Go’!

Let’s analyze this app driven mega-trend. It isn’t too hard to identify the masterful goals of the Pokemon brand in general. The toys were always designed to appeal to a wide range of ages and interests, where the theme itself is a retailer’s dream: “gotta catch em’ all!”


There is a certain fanaticism interwoven into the core of Pokemon and it is that mouth-watering motivation that you want to capitalize on. With Pokemon Go, everyone is a brand ambassador. It gets shared between friends and status updates are syndicated through your Facebook feed whether you like it or not. In marketing the goal is to build awareness and brand loyalty. Pokemon Go is able to organically do this, making a seasoned player out of a normally professional adult.

Game Theory

A savvy marketer can see that the effective draw of Pokemon can be applied to many other goals, if leveraged correctly. In our tech-driven world we are often looking for a readily on-hand distraction from work or everyday life. Like texting and driving, we have observed cases where ‘Go’ causes people to ignore good sense and risk bodily injury as they hunt for digital monsters.

Why would anyone risk this? The allure of “ranking up” is a mechanic built into “Freemium” game models that is designed to keep you playing and extend the life of the game. Pokemon Go creates what is referred to in the computer gaming world as a “grind”: a metered sense of progress in the guise of genuinely stimulating content. The goal is to keep you playing, keep you chasing that next evolution of your collection and in many cases to offer you reasons to purchase unlockable content.


In Plain Sight

As a marketer you can almost marvel at the spectacle of it all. Here we have grown adults walking around cities; in parks and grocery stores in an intent trance. They search for something you can only see through the small lens of a mobile device. It is an interesting allegory for the direction our world is headed – where “Augmented Reality” is moving more and more beyond the realm of the goofy product awareness campaign and into an inviting extension of the brand experience. When utilized, you can look at AR encoded products, as viewed through your mobile device and see details on clothing and other items.pokemon-go-2

A few years ago Trade Shows began to see the first dabbling of Augmented Reality. Since then you see different promotions try to make use of this technology, but it hasn’t quite taken off and become integrated in the way many had expected. The trick is often to balance the novelty of the “cool” factor with the prep work involved with downloading an app and getting registered to use it. Your company needs to create a campaign that makes people want to engage with your brand as much as they want to hunt down fictional little monsters for their collection.


There may be some sort of fun coupon and treasure hunt promotion you can combine with aspects of your product. The idea is not a new one, but as Pokemon teaches us it can be very effective assuming you’ve crafted a supportive “reason to care” around your brand’s campaign.

One example you may try that directly leverages Pokemon Go’s popularity is by offering bonuses for players who visit your booth or engage with your brand’s campaign. It is very helpful to climb into the mind of a player by becoming one yourself! You may be able to pair your coupons with in-game Lures that players will want to utilize to catch new characters.

Check out this example at Busch Gardens, where they used “Lures” to host a Pokemon Go gathering.

You can combine pokemon1digital emails or texts to subscribed contacts or traditional signage to try to mobilize (no pun intended) ‘Go’ players out there to visit your store or event location to benefit their game progress. Malls have gotten on the bandwagon as a way to bring in crowds and boost sales with their own version of “Lure Parties”.

Many marketers will undoubtedly try to capitalize on this trend, and many will fail. However, the ones that understand the environment and the interest that keeps people playing Pokemon will have the most lasting success with their campaigns.

What do you think of Pokemon Go? Does your company have plans in the works to try to leverage this level of brand loyalty at your next trade show? We would love to hear what plans you have in the works.

Have questions for us? We love talking about trade show design and recommending you the best booth solutions for your company’s budget – big or small. Give us a call – the Monster Displays team can be reached at Sales@MonsterDisplays.com or call (888) 484-3344, we’d love to put our experience to work for you.