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Don’t follow the flock

  • Opinion
  • December 26, 2016
  • Fiona Kerr
Don’t follow the flock

If you do know that phrase, you’ve probably noticed the crowds of people walking in circles in parks, climbing over fences, getting stuck in trees and even falling off cliffs. Pokémon Go is the panic inducing, free-to-play, augmented reality game that people have been playing on their phones since it launched in July 2016.

As you’d expect, a lot of brands have tried to jump on the social media phenomenon band wagon.

Best Buy created in-store Pokémon Go hunting kits where users could stock up on water, mobile battery packs and snacks.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop posted imagery of Pokémon’s lurking about in-store. Benefit Cosmetics posted imagery that tied their myriad of brow products into the Pokémon catchphrase, ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’.

And my favourite – Pert 2in1 shampoo tried to leverage the craze using the tenuous link that their product saves time… freeing you up to go Pokémon hunting! 

Even though the uptake of Pokémon Go has been unprecedented, users are abandoning the app at a faster rate than they adopted it. Bloomberg recently reported there are roughly 30 million Pokémon Go users internationally, down from a peak of 45 million in mid-July.

So here’s the question - should you be basing your marketing strategy on a reaction to an unplanned event?

Aka - a fad. The definition of a fad is: ‘An intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short lived.’ It’s a craze that will provide entertainment for a number of users, but it will probably be irrelevant to both you and your product, service or business.

Not for one minute am I saying that you shouldn’t tap into trends. But, fads and trends are very different. Trends are based on inherent human behaviours or needs that exist but may evolve over time. Fads are much less rooted in consumer psychology, and are as the definition suggests – ‘A flash in the pan.’

Successful brands are created through consistent, relevant and engaging conversations with a specific target audience, over time.

Here’s three key reasons why fads won’t build your brand over time:

  1. Marketing strategies should be planned, considered and timely. Structured plans help brands to develop multiple messages and improve efficiency, producing campaigns that are targeted and effective.
  2. Marketing strategies should be purposeful and relevant, focused on consumer benefits and reasons why. These can be anything from product benefits through to branded content, but they should communicate why the product or service is relevant to the target market. This also means speaking to your target market when and where they want to engage.
  3. Marketing strategies should be linked to ROI (Return On Investment). What’s the point in flinging a campaign out the door and forgetting about it? What gets created should be measured, and what gets measured should be managed. You should be looking at results and refining as you go.

I feel like some people will argue that jumping on fads is a marketing tactic and not a strategy. So if you as a brand already have your annual marketing plan sorted, fully costed out and a contingency budget in place, then by all means go mad. Jump on passing pop culture, create vaguely useful apps and use any VR facility you can get your hands on. Why? Because you’re in a safe position to do so. 

I won’t argue that Pokémon Go hasn’t altered the intersection of augmented reality and marketing, because it most certainly has. But brands should be asking whether an augmented reality strategy will help them connect with their customers, and then working within their budget parameters to integrate one – not the other way around.

So don’t follow the flock.  Find out who your customers are, what they want, what they need and (most importantly) how you can help them with that. Then go and tell them why you’re relevant to them. Plan ahead, and catch ‘em all!

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 746 October / November 2016

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