What made Pokémon GO... and not stop?

And four things businesses should learn from the hype

There’s a new app in town that, seemingly overnight, has turned otherwise regimented and work-obsessed adults into carefree children. It’s made them forget their schedules, risk their jobs, and abandon their cubicles to hunt little miro-esque creatures like a bunch of coked-out weasels. Pokémon GO, is based on the 1996 video game called Pokémon. The name is the truncated form of Poketto Monsuta, which translates to Pocket Monsters.

How did a handful of colorful monsters with strange names like Wartortle and Snorlax come to dominate our daily lives? More importantly to the business world, what made this hybrid of Google Maps and Game Boy not only go viral, but reduce other trends to mere droplets in Pokémon GO-cean? In some ways, not being a Pokémon GO-er can be far more ostracizing than not being interested in the presidential elections. Even if Pokémon isn’t your thing-- you have to marvel at its reach.

Some, such as McDonalds, immediately saw Pokémon GO’s potential. Since connecting some of its locations in Japan to Pokémon GO routes, their sales have risen by 5%. Others, have been quite literally trampled by the Pokémon catchers. And even Germany-- the beacon of efficiency and pragmatism--has fallen prey to the pokémons. In Düsseldorf, whole bridges (!) have shut down due to catcher congestion. The city has since gone so far as to create extra trolley routes to transport players on up to three hour journeys to catch some of the rarest Pokémon. Since its inception, Pokémon GO has not only lapped tinder, but caught more users in just a few weeks than many prominent social media apps, such as twitter, did in years. In short, Pokémon GO is well on its way to becoming the most sensationalized social media outlet of our time.

So what can entrepreneurs and organizations learn from the hype of Pokémon GO to boost the success of a new product or service? Afterall, any marketing expert would downright die to drum up even a fraction of Pokémon’s global attention. Here, we’ve extracted four business lessons from the app’s success:

1.Be Brave

Back in 1996, Nintendo vastly underestimated market interest in Pokémon. Hedging their bets, they rolled out one tiny batch of 200,000 games. What happened? Pokémon miraculously reanimated the dying Gameboy. The TV-series, card games, and merchandise it inspired expanded its market and rendered it a true cash cow. As of today, the video game has sold almost 200 Million times.

The release of of Pokémon GO 20 years later, involved much more bravery than luck . In a world, where most augmented reality apps fail, many have written off the market as barren. With hardly any bona-fide breakthroughs (for instance, do you know any soccer moms or truck drivers who own google glass?), Nintendo’s brave move to release Pokémon GO has paid off. Big time.

2.Keep it Simple

Over the years, nintendo has rolled out games with complex content and cutting edge apps, that would have put the theory of Quantum Entanglement to shame. Yet, Pokémon GO is as simple as a game could possibly get. In fact, the game is little more than a glorified scavenger hunt: 1. You search for things, 2. find things and, 3. use the things you found to access more things. In the end, the concept couldn’t be simpler--no laborious explanations or tutorials are needed. In turn, anyone, even you, could start catching pokémon right now.

3.Use your roots

This also brings us to another point. Pokémon did not reinvent the wheel. It incorporated the wheel, or a 20 year old video game, and improved upon it by adding the classic idea of a scavenger hunt. In some scavenger hunts, say an Easter egg hunt, you eat the eggs you discover. In Pokémon GO, the monsters you find fight rival monsters. By improving on a preexisting concept Pokémon GO appealed to our basic human preference for familiar things, all while giving the app a fresh and techy glow-- the best of both worlds.

4.Don’t be afraid to be “uncool”

Few things come off as more dorky or childish than going on a pseudo-virtual monster hunt. Yet somehow catching Pokémon is cool, or at the very least socially acceptable. In fact, one attraction of the game, is that it appeals to the nerd or the child in all of us. If Hipsterdom and Silicon Valley have taught us anything-- uncool is the new cool.

If you want to catch ‘em all with your new business idea remember to be brave, keep the concept simple, incorporate your roots, and don’t shy away from coming off as “uncool”. You never know what opportunity might picatchu.

Fabian Bürkin is interim head of Client Success at Lausanne Business Solutions. He completed his studies in Mathematics and Finance at the University of Konstanz and has appeared in productions at the Burgtheater in Vienna, Austria, won numerous speaking prixes, as well as received a nomination as one of the top 8 rising German comedians. Lausanne Business Solutions is a comprehensive talent management consultancy. Lausanne helps organizations recruit top talent, increase employee engagement, while optimizing performance, and develop individuals and teams. You can follow Lausanne Business Solutions on twitter @lausanneconnect or on instagram @lausannesolutions.