The resurgence of the Pokémon franchise has been well documented thanks to the recent launch of augmented reality app ‘’Pokémon Go’’. Pokemon started as a simple video game for the original Game Boy in the mid-1990’s and has been successfully ported to various mediums: animated series, trading cards, movies and more. Some commentators are surprised that the Pokémon brand still resonates with consumers after years of somewhat being relegated to the background; however such shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Pokémon Company (a joint venture including Nintendo) responsible for marketing and licensing the franchise has always used a simple but strong storytelling strategy that transcends age, race, geography …
A simple narrative
The Pokémon narrative is quite simple: individuals hunting wild, magical creatures whom they train for combat. Once the training is complete, trainers and their respective Pokémons team up to fight other Pokémon/trainer teams. Young (and older) consumers from all around the world can all relate to this story which invokes the following universal themes: coercition, education, friendship, collaboration and conflict.
Many Pokémons, many characters
A key aspect of the storytelling is the multitude of Pokémons (729 and counting). Each creature has a distinct appearance, superpower and personality; and in many iterations of the Pokémon series they form a strong bond with their respective trainer. This was a great character development initiative because as such: there is something for everyone to like (and ultimately buy).
Inviting consumers to be part of the story
Long before the “augmented reality” of Pokémon Go, Nintendo and its partners have understood the importance of fandom (community of fans) and its powerful impact on marketing and sales. In the late 1990s, Pokémon trading cards became hugely popular; such let fans play against one another, mimicking the Pokémon/trainer dynamic. This was a clever tactic to put consumers directly inside the story and “appropriate” the narrative for themselves. The card somehow re-purposed the style and game-play of “Magic: The Gathering”, an iconic card game in which players battle as powerful wizards. Similar to “Magic”, Pokémon cards have been played informally among friends or at large live events where legions of fans meet and have a good time.
Marketers take note: sometimes keeping story telling simple sometimes works wonders. Such allows to scale your product across several decades, fully utilizing new mediums and technologies; making timeless brands in the process.
Cover image: courtesy of Jonathanjo at deviantart.com, Fair Use.
Pokémon trainer image: courtesy of bulbagarden.net, Fair Use.
Pokémon list image: courtesy of Poké-Collab, Fair Use.
Pokémon cards image: courtesy of wikiHow, Faire Use.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.