Banking Mobile & Online

Sberbank is one of the first to Pikachu

Sberbank is one of the first to Pikachu. Main image: Firdaus Khaled,
Written by Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner looks at the recent Pokemon Go phenomenon and how Sberbank is using the game to full effect in its marketing strategy.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you may have noticed the rise of Pokémon Go. It’s been in the news everywhere, mainly because kids seem to be gathering in places they shouldn’t. Equally, the game has been responsible for everything from finding dead bodies to resurrecting other ones.

If you don’t know how the game works, it’s basically catching little monsters (Pokémon) as you walk around. The game is linked to our real world, and offers you the chance to chase and catch creatures. Jim Marous at The Financial Brand gives a good overview:

For those unfamiliar, Pokémon GO is a free mobile game that uses your phone’s GPS and camera to see tiny creatures called Pokémon (short for “pokey monster”) through the window of your phone, as if they exist in the real world. The object of the game is walk around your town, park, mall and business district catching these creatures along the way. Players can also visit Pokémon Gyms to train their creatures and PokéStops to collect items that help catch more Pokémon.

Pokemon Go. Image: Chris Skinner

Equally, Similar Web provides great insight into how the game has taken off so rapidly:

As of now, the app is only (officially) available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand but in those countries, it has already caught fire. On July 8th, only 2 days after the app’s release, it was already installed on 5.16% of all Android devices in the US. If that doesn’t seem like much, consider that by Thursday, July 7th, Pokemon GO was already installed on more US Android phones than Tinder.

Android installs – Pokemon Go vs Tinder. Source: SimilarWeb

Source: SimilarWeb

It’s not just on installs where Pokémon GO is killing it, on app engagement as well, the app’s usage has been unbelievably high. Over 60% of those who have downloaded the app in the US are using it daily, meaning around 3% of the entire US Android population are users of the app. This metric, which we refer to as Daily Active Users has put Pokémon GO neck and neck with Twitter, and in a few more days, Pokémon GO will likely have more Daily Active Users than the well-established social network.

Android installs – Pokemon Go vs Twitter. Source: SimilarWeb

Source: SimilarWeb

In terms of Usage Time, Pokémon GO is taking up a ton of its user’s time. As of July 8th, the app was being used for an average of 43 minutes, 23 seconds a day, higher than Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Messenger.

Usage time – Pokemon Go vs Social Media Apps. Source: SimilarWeb

Source: SimilarWeb

Outside of the US, users around the world have been trying to download Pokémon GO using an apk, bypassing the official app store. Since the app’s release, traffic to absolutely exploded, increasing from just over 600,000 visits on July 5th to over 4 million visits on July 6th.

Traffic explodes to Source: SimilarWeb

Source: SimilarWeb

This traffic to APKMirror came mostly via Organic Search Traffic and over the 28 day period from June 10th to July 7th, 19.6% of desktop search traffic came from the search term “pokemon go apk”. In total, 30.5% of all desktop search traffic over this time period came from searches with the term “pokemon” in them.

Furthermore, the traffic to APKMirror has come from all over the world, with the US only accounting for 10.8% of the site’s desktop traffic over the last 28 days. After the US, users in Brazil are leading the charge to download Pokémon GO via an apk and are responsible for 8.2% of APKMirror’s traffic over the same time period.

Breakdown of traffic to Source: SimilarWeb

Source: SimilarWeb

This massive interest in Pokémon GO has helped Nintendo Co’s stock surge more than 20% and according to David Ingles of Bloomberg, Nintendo had their best one-day move since 1983.

Relevant to banking

All of this amazing achievement with virtually no marketing. Nothing like ‘virality’ is there? So why is this relevant to banking? Well, Jim Marous’ piece explores this in more depth along with other articles, such as this one in American Banker:

In Florida, the marketing team at Davenport-based CenterState Banks arranged to have “lures” placed in branches in Jacksonville and Lakeland. Lures attract Pokemon characters, which in turn attract players … CenterState figured it would take some time for the lures to pay off in the form of gamer traffic, but 20 people stopped by in the first hour, said Chris Nichols, the company’s chief strategy officer. “That blew our minds,” Nichols said. “No other marketing channel we have has that kind of power.”

The reason I’m covering this is because I received a press release yesterday from Sberbank, Russia. The bank is one of the first to specifically leverage the game in gaining footfall in its branches. Here’s the press release:

Sberbank helps catch Pokémon and provide free insurance for Pokémon Go players

July 18 2016, Moscow – Sberbank will help Pokémon Go players catch Pokémon: starting July 17, all PokéStops near Sberbank branches across Russia will be equipped with special modules that attract Pokémon. The modules will allow players to visit a nearby Sberbank office and catch missing Pokémon without having to move around the city. The modules will be active during the Sberbank offices’ working hours. Pokémon Go is a mobile game based on real geolocations, asking players to explore their cities in order to catch little monsters.

Pokemon in Sberbank

Pokémon Go players who prefer to explore the city while looking for Pokémon will be offered free accident insurance by Sberbank so that players can concentrate on the game fully. To activate the free insurance, players will need to visit and enter their nickname and mobile phone number.

Impressive … or is it? Do any of these gamers actually bring the bank any business? Do any of them open accounts?

“One thing we struggle with was did we want to spend a lot of time on an endeavour that does not result in new checking accounts or sell loans,” said Chris Nichols, Centrestate’s chief strategy officer.

Equally, David Gerbino notes in American Banker’s article: Would I waste my time doing this? No. Why? I have used digital marketing to drive retail customers and business customers to branches to generate opportunity for the bank customer and profit for the bank. A lot of creative energy is being spent to cash in on the Pokémon GO platform. Are these same bankers spending the same amount of creative energy to opportunities for their customers and improve their bank’s profitability? I’d rather help people refinance a mortgage or upgrade their home then give them a few free Poké balls, potions, Pokémon to capture, etc.

A good marketing ploy or a stupid game that’s a waste of time? Probably both, but either way it’s brightened up an otherwise gloomy summer. See: What Happens When You Use Pokemon Go In Downing Street.

READ NEXT: Barclays on quest to gamify digital banking

– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. Read more here. Main image: Firdaus Khaled,

About the author

Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner is an independent commentator on the financial markets through the Finanser, and chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club, which he founded in 2004. He is an author of numerous books covering everything from European regulations in banking through to the credit crisis, to the future of banking.

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