The Pokémon GO phenomenon washed across the globe like a tsunami — and while the pace at which it subsided was almost as sudden as its inundation, the customer experience (CX) lessons that it has left behind are invaluable. The game’s success reveals key elements that any company can borrow to create its own powerfully engaging multisensory experiences. By simultaneously activating multiple neural systems and chemicals, a larger, multiplier effect is observed. Consider how Pokémon GO:
- Stokes the anticipatory-reward system with constant yet unpredictable rewards. The euphoric “high” that we feel when we anticipate a future reward, especially as it gets closer, motivates people to continue pushing for the reward in order to receive more intense and stimulating dopamine-driven pleasure sensations. However, an additional component in Pokémon GO’s success is the unpredictability of discovery. Whether it’s a shadow of a rare monster in the vicinity, the anticipation of what’ll be hatched from a 10-km egg or the Pokémon that just appears out of nowhere; the potential-reward scenario increases levels of dopamine like no other.
- Stimulates chemically reinforced tribal bonding instincts. Humans organize in tribes wherever possible, even under the flimsiest of circumstances which helps explain sports fan behavior. Similarly, Pokémon Go connects people to other players in physical spaces where they congregate to reap the rewards of a “hotspot” as well as in the game where they join teams. This type of bonding delivers the neurotransmitter oxytocin to in-group brains. The feel-good chemical decreases aggression and increases generosity, specifically towards other group members. Serotonin, another neurochemical that plays a role in bonding, reinforces connected feelings by flowing when we feel significant, important, or needed.
- Delivers the rush of competitive thrill with minimal actual risk. Endorphins, which resemble opiates in that they deliver a rush of excitement, are naturally released in the brain as players earn new achievements and overcome difficulties in the game, such as capturing that stubborn Pokémon that keeps escaping. Similar to a runner’s high, the harder the challenge, and often the higher the level of perceived risk, the stronger the endorphins hit when it is overcome.
What it means: The unpredictability of discovery is a key component in Pokémon GO’s success. The potential reward scenario increases levels of dopamine like no other.
CX pros should aim for the brain. Identify and target the neurochemicals that align with your brand. Perhaps your brand aligns with the dopamine and serotonin highs that stoke customer fanatics of Red Bull — or maybe it’s the softer motherly instincts provided by oxytocin in brands like P&G or Dove. Take a look at our Brief: What CX Pros Can Learn From Pokémon Go to understand the ingredients of Pokémon GO’s success and what it means for your CX engagement strategy.