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Three Things I Learned from Catching Pokemons

We are in the business of understanding human behavior, and the tools and methods that we use need to remain relevant. This is why we have no other option than to move at the same pace as the world around us, because they are not going to wait for us.


By Felix Rios

Pokemon Go landed in the UK last week and I jumped on board right away. Twenty-four hours and seven pokemons in my pokedex later, I noticed a few lessons we can apply in the market research industry. In case you are wondering, yes, I said it right: Pikachu can teach us something.

Pokemon Go Mania

It’s almost certain that by now, you’ve heard or read something about it. However, in case you don’t know what it is, this Vox article explains it in 400 words, or what is equivalent to 2.85 tweets.

Within 13 hours of launching, Pokemon Go topped the App Store charts. It already has more active users than twitter, and is now going for the heavy hitters, snapchat and google maps.

If you’ve ever done Google Trends analysis, you know that Facebook is the most searched term on Google. I use this term as a way to give some context to other search queries and identify, beyond just the number google shows, how they rank compared to the most searched terms. In Pokemon Go’s case, this is the first time that I’ve noticed in a long time a search term getting so close to “Facebook.” This is an indication, at least, of the incredibly huge wave of curiosity that this game is generating.


Pokemon Go’s immediate success responds to many things. They are betting heavily on nostalgia, and for my generation, that grew up with Nintendo, we have a soft spot for vintage videogames. It takes cues from RPG gaming, which also has a huge cult base following, and it leverages technology and augmented reality seamlessly, which brings together nicely the entire experience.

People are spending a lot of time playing Pokemon Go. To be precise, users average 33 minutes of daily use, according to Sensor Tower. Just to give you some perspective on what this means, the Facebook app is used for an average of 22 minutes, Snapchat 18 minutes and Twitter 17 minutes.

So, these are 3 things that became more and more obvious as I played with Pokemon Go for the last 24 hours and made me realize that we should be paying attention to some of these things in the market research industry, to make sure that we remain relevant with the people that we survey, and are gathering data that will help our clients make better decisions.

  1. Experience is king: On a scale from 1 to 10 how much do you like to complete a survey vs doing other things?….This is what we are asking our participants to do. Our surveys are competing against Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tinder, and now Pokemon Go. I talk to clients concerned about making sure their 20×6 grids render properly on mobile devices. The Pokemon Go-ers of today are the panelists of tomorrow. Imagining that they will adapt to our ways, in the spirit of research, is not really going to solve anything. We will only talk more and more about the falling engagement with research and increasing dropout rates if something isn’t done. The advertising industry realized this a long time ago. That industry has managed to turn selling into an entertainment experience. Eventually, a similar shift needs to happen in our industry. Pokemon Go’s gaming experience has instant gratification as an important part of it – the feedback is immediate. But it also brings “social” beyond the cold and lonely web experience, to the actual physical world. People are going out and talking to other people, interacting and sharing.
  1. Data is the new currency. As we mentioned, in the US, 21 million people are using Pokemon Go for 33 minutes at a time on average. While you are using the app, it is tracking your location, has access to some personal information, and is drawing your movement patterns. It is still not clear how Pokemon Go will monetize their product, beyond the in-app purchases, which has already generated $1.6 million in revenue from iOS in the U.S. alone, according to Sensor Tower.One thing is certain: they are collecting boatloads of data. This app is still in its early stages, and the buzz could fade out quickly, but I’m sure that future features will be oriented toward making more sense of the location data they are collecting, to make it richer and more actionable. Sooner than later, this data will turn into audience profiling that will feed an advertising business by Nintendo, or someone else. It’s time we also start looking at this data.
  1. Help yourself to all my data: There is an entire generation that is less paranoid worried about confidentiality, as long as they are getting something they deem valuable out of it. This is a reality, and it comes with great responsibilities. We in the market research industry should be thinking of what we can give to our participants so they engage in a voluntary and proactive data sharing relationship. Incentivizing turns the conversation into a transactional relationship, and while it may work today, it may not in the future. The sooner we can start thinking this way, the sooner we will change the market research dialogue, and start seeing data collection through new eyes.

We are in the business of understanding human behavior, and the tools and methods that we use need to remain relevant. This is why we have no other option than to move at the same pace as the world around us, because they are not going to wait for us.

Now, I need to go and find a Pikachu, I’ve been told there is one hiding around the Houses of Parliament.

If you have used Pokemon Go and have also learned something, please send me a tweet. I’d love to hear about it.

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One response to “Three Things I Learned from Catching Pokemons

  1. This insightful analysis from Rios points out what I believe is a meta trend in the world today (his point 3, Help Yourself To All My Data.) The growth in our shared understanding has a value that surpasses profit, and the coming generation realizes this. In other words, those gurus who’ve been talking all along about a shift in planetary consciousness are basically right.

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Felix Rios

Technology and Innovation Manager, Ugam

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