As a brand, Pokémon knows how to make a splash. Ever since Pokémon launched with the brand’s first video games in 1996, generations of fans have traded cards, made the video games bestsellers and devoured its TV shows. But as the brand’s milestone 25th anniversary approached in 2021, Pokémon executives knew they needed to one-up even themselves.
The brand’s 25th anniversary goals were trifold: introduce Pokémon as a cultural force to potential new fans, re-engage existing fans around the world and introduce the latest evolutions of the franchise and its experiences in a fun, inviting way.
“The product side introduces new and exciting video games to keep the enfranchised fandom excited,” said Daniel Benkwitt, Pokémon’s director of communications. “And the Pokémon international team had developed a really great program of products for that year. Our job was to bring those to life.”
At the same time, Universal Music Group had been building out a virtual network that can allow far-flung fans the chance to attend the same virtual concerts, pop-up shops and other specialty activations, all from their own corners of the globe. Sensing a mutually beneficial partnership that could play up the best of both brands, Pokémon and UMG for Brands teamed up to break new ground, in collaboration with MediaCom Creative Systems.
Reaching new fans through established mediums
"Together with our great agency partners, we came to the Pokémon team with an idea to create a full Pokémon-inspired album from a variety of our frontline artists, both in the U.S. and internationally,” said Bridget Ferris, VP at UMG for Brands. “We knew we had artists who had an authentic connection to Pokémon, could write songs inspired by its rich world and could hit on a lot of the themes that Pokémon shares and champions—things like discovery, exploration and teamwork."
Universal Music Group made a point to rally its international artists from across its range of labels for the project and incorporate brand touchpoints that longtime fans would appreciate, such as releasing Red and Blue extended play records, mirroring Pokémon’s long history of dual video game title releases, beginning with the first Pokémon Red and Blue games. The result was “Pokémon 25: The Album,” a 14-track concept album released by Capitol that featured songs in English, Spanish, French and Japanese. The songs were dropped in a waterfall release strategy, where a string of singles is issued, each one building upon an EP or album as they’re released.
The first single was an anthemic number by pop superstar Katy Perry about believing in yourself and following your dreams. Called “Electric,” it was inspired by the electricity of Perry’s music video costar and game species character Pikachu.