By Will Reese, president and chief innovation officer at Cadient, a Cognizant Company


It’s no secret that marketing has grown in complexity in the last few decades, coupled with the rise in digital technologies.

Unless you’ve been completely disconnected, you likely know that the newest phenomenon in this world is Pokémon Go, an app-based game that has single-handedly taken over the technological world. In case you haven’t downloaded it yet, the game is based on the premise of capturing a wide variety of creatures called Pokémon by throwing Pokéballs – there’s also battling, evolving, new powers, etc. Lastly, the new app leverages GPS which allows users to walk around to discover hidden creatures, stop to acquire items and congregate with other players at “Pokémon gyms” to engage in battles between the little monsters.

As digital and technological advancements continue to transform across all industries, core brands like Pokémon are colliding with pharma and healthcare when it comes to brand marketing strategies that influence user behavior and engagement. As seen with the Pokémon example, digital tools and apps can have a tremendous impact on a global scale in terms of improving consumer health behavior while driving success for brand marketing. While Pokémon Go won’t be the answer to every challenge, there are five key takeaways that all stakeholders should pay attention to as they look to transform brand marketing in the pharma world:

1) Data and Privacy: By leveraging GPS, Pokémon Go is able to track everything. For pharma and healthcare organizations, it is actually closer to being a “Personal Health Record” than any system designed to date. The app also has full access to email account information. While it may be seen as a “fault,” it’s interesting to note that currently more than 4 million people have given open access to their data, behavior and systems. As Pokémon Go continues to thrive, it will be interesting to see if this spurs a greater dialogue on privacy and security in the pharma and healthcare industry.

2) Increased Health Behavior: Pokémon Go has motivated consumers to become physically active – something that fitness trackers and wearables have been aiming to promote with their products for many years. To unlock certain levels, the game requires kilometers of walking and it is designed well enough to avoid giving credit if a user drives in a car. Additionally, the game provides rewards as more rare creatures are captured. As a result, users are motivated to join as to not be left out, to reach achievements first and to connect with others – all while positively impacting their health behaviors.

3) Familiarity Matters: People are using GPS and maps almost every day. Similar to this, the experience of the game taps into already common mobile behaviors – simple enough for anyone to understand and start. The app also allows people to share photos of their captures, another very familiar behavior that people often engage in via social media. For pharma brand marketing, it is important to ensure that the core user experience is visual and doesn’t require much to make it globally relevant. By understanding what people do naturally with digital tools, brand marketers can pave a path to success when designing a new program.

4) Location, Location, Location: Pokémon Go builds upon other similar virtual reality games, where Google Maps experiences are leveraged and users from all over the world can tag unique locations. This activity is highly localized and community based – even local police departments have begun to highlight where users should not go to capture certain Pokémon. With the localized community aspect, this is an interesting bridge between global and hyper-local, where consumers are joining a worldwide community, but acting on a local scale. This behavior is essential for pharma and healthcare companies that are considering brand marketing from a population health standpoint.

5) Omni-Channel Brand: Successful brand marketing efforts include campaigns that are seamlessly designed to live across multiple digital channels, and Pokémon is an example of accomplishing this. Originally thought of as a card game, the reality is that the core brand and characters were crafted to work in television, video games, print, as toys and now as a complete mobile experience. The essence of this brand has always been straightforward and simple, which allows it to travel across all devices without adding extra complexity. When considering a brand experience or marketing campaign in pharma and healthcare, it is crucial to ensure you have the answer to the question – what’s the core essence that travels well?

While Pokémon Go isn’t the first occurrence that revolutionized brand marketing strategies, it certainly encompasses qualities that pharma and healthcare marketers can learn from. What started out as a card game has now morphed into a widespread phenomenon. As a result, this has sparked an appreciation in how digital and mobile tools can impact and transform brand marketing, drive personal behavior changes and community engagement.