Tonight, I’d like to finish our overview of Christensen’s Blue Ocean Strategy. The one market that I haven’t really spoken of yet is the Third Tier of non-customers. Basically, this is the holy grail of the Blue Ocean Strategy. This is the area in which competition becomes irrelevant, and the sky becomes the limit.
The third tier is known as “Unexplored” non-customers. These are people who do not know about the products offered by the industry, and what, nor do they know that they want the products offered by it. Basically, they never even considered the market as an option to suit their needs. In the anime industry, this could refer to somebody looking for animated titles that appeal to them that isn’t South Park or Family Guy. Likewise, it could be someone who wants an action show that’s not like the typical American fare, or a sci-fi experience that isn’t Battlestar Galactica.
These potential customers are the most difficult to capture. A business can’t appeal to them directly, because they don’t know that these products exist. FUNimation, Viz, or Sentai can’t simply buy advertisements to sell to these groups, because they’ll get little response. Instead, these groups need another impetus to consider the market’s products.
Third Tier noncustomers usually maintain company with people of similar interests. Because of this, it wouldn’t be too uncommon for an individual to keep friends that enjoy their own hobbies, but may also know about anime, and reside in the first or second tier of non-customers. These more-inward social links are the key to reaching that elusive third tier non-customer. As non-customers become customers, and as they become more active in their interests, it is natural that these non-customers become more vocal in sharing their interests.
These inner-market customers will be better-suited to appealing to the outer tier, as they have both the trust and the attention that the industry sorely lacks. Due to their connection, they are better-suited to suggest titles that will have a positive impact on their friends. In a pair of real life examples, I’ve gotten die-hard sports fans hooked on a few genres, by loaning out copies of Fighting Spirit and Eyeshield 21, and action fans intrigued with Black Lagoon and Hellsing. The ideal of such an approach would be that, as natural interest grows in these third tier noncutomers, they’ll eventually advance inward, and begin to influence their own friends and family, repeat in a chain reaction. In essence, the customers would willingly market, in the absence of an ability to do so by the sellers.
It’s definitely a difficult task, however. Especially when the fact that companies like FUNimation or Media Blasters have little control over what is actually produced in Japan. After all, the industry needs to ensure that their customers, their base are excited enough to want to share their interests with absolutely everyone. They need to find the “hot” titles that will spark the imagination, and inspire the masses. They need shows that will make people say “This is incredible! I must have this! I must share this with everyone!” They need to find titles that will generate sales for more than two months, and inspire people to hunt for more shows like it.
In short, the industry.needs to find shows that make their customers feel like they kick ass. And, unfortunately, this is far easier said than done, in most cases.