Tonight, I’d like to return to our discussion on Christensen’s Blue Ocean strategy. In the last post, I went over the three major tiers of non-consumers. However, in the next few “business” installments, I’d like to speak a bit about the tiers in detail. I’ll begin by speaking of a particular segment of the first Tier: the lapsed customer.

The Tier 1 non-consumer market is a large, varied group with genuine interest in anime. These are typically folks that will buy the occasional episode of Full Metal Alchemist on Amazon, watch Kenshin on Crackle, or take in the occasional DVD. However, there is also a population that loves anime, but no longer finds an interest in what’s being offered. This population naturally falls off with changing trends and changing titles.

Certainly, we all know the fans that grew up with shows like Robotech, Speed Racer, or even Pokemon. They’re the type that got into the anime to find more shows like what got them hooked to begin with – so a Robotech fan may have migrated to Gundam, then to Getter Robo, and so on. However, as time marched on, and shows being offered changed, these people found themselves with less to watch, and even less to buy. So, to satisfy their needs, they drifted to other markets, be it sci-fi, Asian cinema, or some other hobby. In English, they left the customer role because the market had stopped satisfying their desires.

That’s not to say that these folks can’t be brought back as customers. Many still have an interest in anime and the topics it provides. They simply don’t have a desire for what’s available right now. These non-customers can still be won over by providing a solution to their desires, by providing the shows that they want.

In the past one to two years, we’ve seen a renewed interest in picking up older titles. Shows that were once off the table, like Dirty Pair and Fist of the North Star are receiving a lease at life in America. In fact, just today, Discotek Media announced that they acquired the original Lupin III. These older titles are definitely worth the attention of those watching the market, as they’re a potentially important tool in the battle to expand.

Many industry members will be happy to note that old shows are cheap, with some exceptions (Sailor Moon, Ranma, or any other giant-name show is still going to fetch a pretty penny). Due to their age and the general lack of mindshare, a 52-episode show from the ’80s could potentially cost less than a 13-episode hit today. The character designs are dated, and the animation can be poor at times. However, these shows can also typically be sold at a lower price with a higher margin. This should sound familiar: It’s the “crappy products for crappy consumers” mantra again – because these shows are older, and less technically advanced they can get better deals for the consumer and lower royalties to the licensors. This is great, since it can draw attention to the budget-conscious set of the Customer market.

At the same time, these shows can be an incredible Purple Cow for the lapsed market. Many left the hobby precisely because companies stopped offering these titles. They always wanted to see shows like Ashita no Joe, or Dirty Pair, or Lupin. But, because these shows were either too expensive, or the industry didn’t exist at the time, they missed their chance. The attention to the classics, though, can provide an incentive for this branch of the lapsed market to return.

To get the lapsed market back, there needs to be buzz, or a way of reaching those who haven’t been in the anime market for a while. For some shows, it could be simple word of mouth and social media that gains these individuals. Right Stuf, for example was particularly enthusiastic about their sales for the original Dirty Pair TV series. The show had a small web campaign, and relied mainly on word of mouth and sources like Twitter or FaceBook for the show’s marketing. The title sold surprisngly well across markets and even made waves on Amazon at points. Dirty Pair is also an anime landmark, though, and didn’t need as much as some of these titles will.

Some will turn to innovative marketing, or they’ll let the fans provide their own promotion. In the case of Fist of the North Star, YouTube videos of the show’s more hilariously insane moments, the most unbelievably outrageous stunts helped propel the show’s sales to a point where it was (momentarily) beating Summer Wars on the Amazon top 100 DVDs. These include segments like a scene where Kenshiro dismantles a Panzer with his bare hands (below).

However, as momentum builds, the problem won’t be simply attracting these lapsed customers. Nay, the real fun will be maintaining them. We’ll see some incredible efforts to gain these people, and I hope to see them succeed to an extent. Anime fans are fickle, though – especially those who have left the market already. If they feel that they are no longer being catered to, they will gladly take their money and bring it elsewhere.

Again, don’t get me wrong – older anime titles will not make up the majority of anime sales – indeed, they’re again, a small niche in the hobby, though a vital one nonetheless. After all, as many will pick up classic shows as old favorites and reminders of a time gone by, these classics serve a vital role in presenting the past of anime, while the present still lives and breathes in the market. The content is still incredible, and the worlds forged are still fantastic. However the real question is simply how broadly these titles can appeal in a market always looking toward the Next Big Thing.

…As promised, I present to you Kenshiro vs. the Tank!

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_ZeD40Rg8A’]

If you enjoy the over-the-top madness, Fist of the North Star is available at Right Stuf.