How to Catch ‘Em All—What Pokémon Taught Me About Marketing

How to Catch ‘Em All—What Pokémon Taught Me About Marketing

Dustin Lien
September 14, 2014

When I was 10, Pokemon was all the rage. 100% of the rage.

If you don’t know what Pokemon is, it is (or at least was, I don’t know now) a trading card game with magical animals that you collect and battle with. There were magazines, video games, and a television show backing up the cards. It was a big deal.

I considered myself a “cool kid” so I fought with every ounce of my being to not like Pokemon, because it wasn’t what the other “cool kids” were doing.

I took pride in the fact that I never purchased a pack of cards, but some of my less “cool” friends would give me their duplicates.

Now understand, I was really into it, but tried to play it off like I wasn’t. Don’t judge me, being 10 years old is complicated.

I had Pokemon Snap for Nintendo 64, and I bought one of the magazines once that came with 2 packs of cards, though I made it clear I just wanted the magazine, and the cards were just included – Obviously I bought it for the cards.

I wanted to be involved with Pokemon, but not seem that into it, so I decided to make a business out of it.

I collected all the cards I could from people giving me their duplicates, and by trading items from my lunch box. I even traded a half-eaten bag of chips for a holographic Bulbasaur…I know—baller move.

After I had a decent amount of cards, I set up a stand in my neighborhood to sell cards from my collection at great prices.

I stood on the side of the road for a few hours next to my table and sign that said “Pokemon Cards For Sale”.

Nobody came.

The next day, I thought about how nobody came to my stand to buy my cards, so maybe I should just give up. On the bus ride home from school, I heard one of the kids talking about Pokemon, so I asked him if he had a holographic Bulbasaur, and he said no.

I told him about how great it would look in his collection, and that he could show it off to his friends.

He bought it from me for $70 on the spot!


The next few weeks at school, I sold Pokemon cards to kids at lunch who I would see playing with them. Most of them had spare change from their lunches that they were willing to give me for a card they wanted from my collection.

The lesson learned was to go where your customers are.

A lot of people give up on businesses because they put up a sign and stand on the side of the road (figuratively and literally speaking), and when no one shows up, they assume it’s either because they didn’t catch their lucky break, or because the market is dry.

Instead of hoping they come to you, find where your customers hang out online/offline and go to them in their natural habitats where they feel comfortable, and provide value before you sell.

Find relevant forums and social groups online where you can help people, answer their questions, provide value with no catch. Be a part of their community with the intention of providing value in places they already are.

Keep the focus on helping your customers and potential customers, and it will become natural to go where they are.

It’s not enough to just go where they are. You have to go where they are with their best interests in mind – not just yours, and that’s when selling a product becomes easier.