Business Lessons from Pokémon Go

Pokemon lessons

Here’s a drinking game for Singaporeans. Eating out? Take a sip every time you spot a kid with an iPad at the dining table. Heck, this game would probably work in just about every major city in the world right now.

The world sure has changed hasn’t it? And your business must too. So what exactly does this have to do with Pokémon and Google? Plenty, in fact.

Pokémon Go

Unless you’ve been on a remote island far away from any semblance of internet access (in which case you wouldn’t be reading this), you’ve probably heard of Pokémon Go. Maybe you’ve heard of the various accidents, a certain protester, or this impassioned fellow:




Pokémon: A Japanese franchise created in 1995, beginning as video games for Nintendo’s Game Boy. Also the name for “pocket monster” characters in the game.

Pokémon Go: A 2016 mobile phone game in the Pokémon franchise, relying on augmented reality.


Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) dates back as far as sixty to even more than a hundred years ago, but has been around in its current form for perhaps 20 years or less. The use of AR has never been as widespread as it is now that Pokémon Go has arrived, however.

Interestingly enough, Google was actually the company that even came up with the concept of Pokémon Go.

In 2014, Google released a “Pokémon Challenge” on Google Maps as an April Fool’s Day prank/sly viral promotion, with the following promotional video.



In fact, you can read the whole story of how the game came to fruition here.

Other examples of how smart companies made use of AR to engage customers include Hello Panda, with its Meiji app and Golden Panda competition back in 2014 to celebrate 40 Years in Singapore:



And IKEA, with an amazing interactive catalogue app:



What does this have to do with my business?

Pokémon Go is a great case study subject in virality. Sure, AR has been around for a long time and adoption isn’t instantaneous. When the change does come though, it comes at a blindingly fast pace.

Never underestimate the power of social media, online news outlets, and just the internet as a whole in getting news spread around the world in minutes.

Uber may have been established 7 years ago, and success didn’t come overnight. But when it came to Singapore, it caused waves within the taxis industry as existing taxi drivers struggled to cope.

Will you be prepared when the next big thing comes along?

Lesson #1: Roll with it.

It can be tempting to be a wet blanket and flat out refuse to adapt to new trends and technology. It could be that you are so accustomed to thinking, “things have always been this way, so why should I change?”, or perhaps you are afraid, or don’t want to be seen as yet another company jumping on the bandwagon.

For those who are willing to embrace changes, however, there can be great rewards.

Take L’inizio’s Pizza Bar in Queens. While schools are finding ways to bar stragglers from wandering onto school grounds, this pizzaria realised the potential of luring customers by leveraging on the game’s abilities.



The Muncie Animal Shelter in Indiana also found a great way to attract dog walkers with the help of the game.

Kooky? Maybe. Effective? Super! Sure, having “Pokémon Go” be listed as part of your marketing budget doesn’t sound as professional as say “Google AdWords Campaign”. But it delivers results, so there is really no good reason to be a snob or a wet blanket when something new and disruptive comes along.

Think about it this way: the creator of Pokémon Go is 49 years old. What’s your excuse?

Check out this great video on using Augmented Reality for warehousing with SAP!



Lesson #2: You don’t have to create, just innovate


If you can create a completely new product or technology and monetize it, you will probably earn plenty of money. Unless you are a creative genius or own a huge company however, this is unlikely to happen. Here’s the thing – being original is tough these days.

If you read the Pokémon Go success story above, you’ll know its creator neither created Pokémon, Augmented Reality technology, nor Google Maps. Instead, he adapted the use of all 3 in a creative and fun way.

Think about this when you develop your next product. What is already out there in the market? How is it doing? Can you make it better? Can you adopt any of the 10 hyper-disruptive business models?


Lesson #3: Fake it ’til you make it


Not sure if your product will be well received? Try testing it out with a minimum viable product first. The video above was Pokémon Go’s minimum viable product, albeit unintentionally.

Though it was released as a gag at first, and perhaps a way to market Google Maps in a creative way, it caught the eye of a Google employee who saw the potential in it due to the overwhelmingly positive response around the world.

As an SME, you won’t have a huge R&D budget or department, and that’s okay. Instead of wasting too much time and effort perfecting your next product, why not launch your own minimum viable product instead? You take on less risk even if you should fail, and will be able to get a good idea of how receptive your customers would be to the real thing.


Lesson #4: Proceed with caution


As great as things are going right now, it’s only been a month. It remains to be seen how well Pokemon Go will develop and age. Angry Birds became a runaway hit when it first hit phone screens. Over the years, the franchise has launched food products, soft toys, backpacks, and clothing among other merchandise. Unfortunately, the bubble eventually burst.

On the other hand, Angry Birds/Rovio may have proven itself to be a comeback kid, with a successful film release this year driving profits back up.

Any successful business person knows sometimes it comes down to one big hit to retire comfortably for the rest of their lives. Candy Crush and Angry Birds may have tasted failure, but their creators have already made billions of dollars in revenue.

So proceed with caution, but proceed!


Lesson #5: Keep dreaming


Not the unproductive kind, of course. Google is huge, but clearly believes in the concept of kaizen. Despite being the world leader in several domains, Google never rests on its laurels, instead knowing that it needs to keep innovating and improving to keep being number one.

It is with this mindset that they let John Hanke (founder of Niantic Labs, which created Pokémon Go) set up his own internal startup, which became independent in 2015. He developed Pokémon Go alongside his colleague who was behind the 2014 Google Maps prank video.

As a small company, you cannot afford to underutilize your resources, and it can be hard to balance long term development activities with daily operations just to get by.


Having a small workforce doesn’t mean you cannot spend a little time on research and development to ensure your long term success. Make the most of your headcount by automating wherever you can, and let your employees think creatively in that time you have saved them.

The key message of Singapore’s Budget 2016 speech in fact, was for businesses to focus on automation.

With a software system like SAP Business One, data silos are broken down to eliminate excess time spent on reconciling data and repeating the same actions over and over again in different departments and software.

Want a quick scenario for this? Download a free factsheet to see how SAP Business One frees time up for you.



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