Through these editorials, I’ve constantly hammered on the idea of empowering the customer. I’ve emphasized that a customer that feels like he kicks ass is a happy customer. Happy custmers are motivated customers, and motivated customers are eagerly searching for more content.
This phenomenon is a simple matter of common sense and human behavior. Humans are creatures of habit. The more they find something they enjoy, the more they’ll want to seek out more of it. In the days of singles, especially the days of VHS tapes, it wasn’t uncommon to constantly switch between shows. In these days, new volumes were often three to four months apart, and cost anywhere from $19.95 to $34.95 for two to three episodes (four-episode tapes did exist, but became more common in the mid-’90s, though they were consistently used as “bookend” volumes – first and last volumes). It wasn’t uncommon to have a shelf of titles that were in progress, and for the viewer to switch between tapes with reckless abandon. One day would be an episode of Slayers followed by Lodoss, the next it could be Ranma and Evangelion, or Utena and Tenchi Muyo. It wasn’t uncommon for people to host anime nights, where they would share tapes and experiences.
Now, I’m not advocating a return to singles. In fact, I’d argue the furthest from it.However, I’m using this anecdote to drive my point. The titles I’ve mentioned are those that ignited the customer’s imagination. Titles that resonated with the audience and brought life to the experience outside of the screen. They are powerful titles that transcend time, and remain popular even today. They were titles that empowered the customer, they were titles that made people feel like they kicked ass. These titles were popular in their day for a reason, and still have potential to sell strongly in today’s market.
Above: Empowering shows have network potential – Tenchi Muyo! aired at 5:00PM on Cartoon Network
These empowered customers often jump from title to title, eager to find their next Utena, their next Black Lagoon, or their next Cowboy Bebop. They sample, they try, and they hunt to acquire the next title to sate their hunger.
Above:THIS kicks ass! This keeps viewers on the edge of their seats and wanting more.
Shows like Genshiken, Lucky Star, Haruhi, or Angel Beats! are the opposite end of the spectrum. They don’t make the average viewer feel like he kicks ass – on the contrary, they are based on visual novels, or titles that rely on in-jokes and audience-deprecating content to hit their audience. The average viewer will watch these shows once and only once, and sales will often be lower for titles of this nature. In a market saturated with these “cold” titles, it’s only natural to see sales shrink, and customers slink away from anime entirely.
Above: This… doesn’t kick ass. Can you tell why it doesn’t?
Again, I’m not advocating that these shows be ignored by distributors: They serve a valuable purpose in the greater market, which I will highlight in the future.
With an abundance of “kick ass” titles, it seems almost certain that the market would grow at a consistent rate. We’re beginning to see this as titles like Bleach, Naruto, and Samurai Champloo take the forefront of the market. The market is speaking loudly, and communicating what it wants. As the adage goes, the customer is always right, and the customer likes feeling like he can kick ass!