I often hear my father’s voice saying, “Why can’t we do it as we did in the old days?” From fashion and hairstyles to cellphones and computers, anything new was bad. Anything, as they did it in the old days, was good.
We all tend to have that resistance to change. We tend to resist what is new and different.
One example was that Dad didn’t own a cellphone until very late in life: “It was just in case Mother got stuck out on the road.” They never actually used the phone. Calling their phone would lead to a voicemail message that would rarely be returned. Why do you ask? Because they never turned it on, “to save the battery.” This was especially funny because Dad worked for the phone company.
When I became a father, one of my pet peeves was video games. As our children were growing up, we limited the time allotted to video games and had them go outside to play. Looking back, I may have been a little reluctant to change. OK, maybe a lot reluctant to change. I am my father’s son.
“Why don’t you kids go out to play instead of playing those video games all day?” Sound familiar?
I work in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. I recently began to see people walking in pairs and groups with their heads down, looking at their phones. I admit that at first, I had old-man syndrome and thought (and may have said), “What are those people doing on their phones? Why don’t they talk to each other?”
Around the same time, I began to read and hear about this Pokemon Go craze. It didn’t take me long to put two and two together and come up with three. What was this Pokemon Go thing? Why were these people obsessed?
Joining the Scene
I am surrounded by millennials in my office. When I asked about Pokemon Go, they all looked at me like I had been living under a rock for the past few months. Maybe I had been. So I asked them to share all things Pokemon with me. I enlisted the help of Joe and Davis (two millennials and Pokemon trainers) to guide me on my quest. Others wanted to jump right in too, so Jason and Christy joined us.
First, we downloaded the app on my phone, and then we went out into the night to seek out the mighty Pokemon.
We went out after Metapods, Weedles, and Kakunas, oh my! I did not have my flat-brimmed hat to make the full transition to Pokemon trainer, but it was unnecessary. In the downtown area, we saw other Pokemon trainers from ages 6 to 60, alone or in groups.
We even saw parents playing the game with their children. What a concept! Some, like us, were casually walking, talking and catching Pokemon. Others were sprinting hither and yon to catch the more elusive Pokemon. (Have you seen the mob scenes in New York as trainers went after the elusive Vaporeon? Seriously, Google it. Or Google the mob scene in Taiwan of trainers chasing after a Snorlax.) I did not fully understand the draw but I admit that I was starting to get into it. I quickly advanced through the various levels until I hit level five and had to choose a team.
Embracing the Trend
Over a beer that night (man does not live by Pokemon alone), we talked about the social aspect of Pokemon and how this latest craze could be used in the retail world. If you are lucky enough to be at or around a Pokestop, the Pokemon trainers will already be there. How are you inviting them to your retail store? You could have a Pokemon day and offer specials. (It is thirsty business capturing those Pokemon.)
If you are not near a Pokestop, you can still have fun with it and invite the trainers into your establishment. It is already happening in many retail environments. Target recently painted some of its concrete balls as Pokeballs, and others have created contests and specials. By learning more about this trend, I can see the attraction and the opportunity as a retailer. I can also see as a benefit is the ability to relate to Pokemon enthusiasts that are customers, employees, and friends. What are you doing in your stores?
I have no idea how long this latest craze will last, but I do know that there are tons of players out there and I am pretty sure that they eat, drink and drive (though I hope not at the same time). The challenge, as with all marketing, is to embrace the trend and create a buzz that will capture the imagination of the customers and increase your sales.
The lesson I learned was that we all have preconceived notions of certain trends and we all have a tendency to dismiss what we don’t know as a “silly waste of time” or worse. The enlightened retailer looks past those preconceived notions and discovers new ways to connect with its customers. Just remember: “You gotta catch ’em all.”