In the headquarters of Wal-Mart’s Internet Team, a massive banner hangs with the message “You can’t out-Amazon Amazon.” For a business the size of Wal-Mart, this philosophy would almost seem counter-intuitive. After all, Wal-Mart is a much larger and more established brand than Amazon. They have the infrastructure and the tools to take Amazon head-on and carve a comfortable portion of the market-share away. They could ship faster, sell cheaper, and offer sharper sale prices. Those looking on a more serious level know very well that Wal-Mart’s approach was the smartest course of action.
In the world of marketing and competitive business, it’s incredibly difficult to chase an established market. In these markets, people made their own decisions, and believed the stories told by older businesses. To accept the story from a newcomer or another competitor would mean that these people would have to admit they chose poorly or, even worse, made the wrong choice. And, as we all know, people hate admitting they are wrong.
Think about it: video game “fanboys”, Apple and Windows advocates, political party hard-liners… they all have a similar way of addressing certain issues. They go out of their way to deny other opinions, and they’ll do everything in their power to try to avoid admitting they’re wrong. This isn’t a derision of any sort – it’s simply human nature.
Now, let’s take this example and apply it to the anime world.
FUNimation currently has an incredible hold in the market. Their story, one of low-priced and decent-quality anime has been accepted by the greater market. People know that they’re the big anime company on the block, and that they’ll have a dominant portion of any quarter’s biggest titles. They’ll be the ones to release the Dragon Balls, the One Pieces, and the like. Frankly, they are the “mass market” sellers for anime. They have the ability to sell more for lower, with faster turn-arounds between volumes.
If one watches the competition, he will notice that none of the competitors in the industry are mimicking this approach. In the early 2000s prior to the crash, this role of “market king” belonged to ADV Films. And, in the competitive sphere, we saw everybody trying to mimic their approach and become the top cat via brute force. This clearly didn’t end well.
In today’s market, competitors to FUNimation are doing their best to not be FUNimation. Instead, they’re telling their own stories and trying to carve their own part of the market, while growing both in size and influence. Sentai Filmworks caters mainly in older shows and strong shounen offerings. NIS America carries niche titles with a premium presentation, Bandai is the Gundam and Haruhi company. Crunchyroll is the king of streaming, with HD streams and fast turnaround for new releases.
If you notice, each entity is telling its own story to the market. They are all displaying their strengths, their distinctions, and the very things that make them different from the current market king. Rather than attempt to out-FUNimation FUNimation, which would surely end in catastrophe, these companies are trying to become Purple Cows of their own, by offering their own identity, and making their own products remarkable.
By side-stepping the juggernaut, these entities have the potential to create their own market, their own customers. As they grow, as people talk about these new stories, companies can claim ownership of the new markets they’ve laid claim to. While these companies may all be selling anime, it’s clear that they aren’t selling the same product, or chasing the same market. If handled properly, the benefits reaped and loyalty gained from these new stories will more than justify the step away from chasing an established market.