In the past, I’ve mentioned that an important aspect of marketing is the ability to tell a story. Gifted storytellers are able to attract potential customers, and immerse them into the very legacy of their products. Whether it’s Apple’s clear message that their products connect friends,strangers, and even entire civilizations under a common culture or Nintendo stating that their product will bring families together, a skilled marketer can bring the stories of their products (and how they enhance the world itself) to life. Every product has a story, and every hobby offers its own contribution to the greater world around it.
Now, before I go further, I have to ask: “What the hell is anime’s story?”
“Well it’s animation from Japan! Duh!”
Dear reader. I’m posing a rhetorical question. The crux of what I’m asking is, well… what can one say to extol the virtues of anime? How do Japanese cartoons enhance its viewers and the world they live in? What can one say to argue that anime, as a whole, makes the world better?
“What do you mean?
Well, dear reader, as you know, anime is a niche hobby. A hobby that, by and large, relies on a small, dedicated group of customers to provide a majority of its revenues. The industry’s smallest players thrive on shows that sell not in the tens of thousands, but merely the thousands and, in more extreme cases, hundreds of units. For the most part, this has always been a cyclical churn of people as older generations retreat from the hobby to make way for the young, and the content changes to match new audiences’ tastes.
And, because of this, the story for the anime subculture over the past two decades has been that it’s a product primarily for teens and tweens. Well, teens, tweens, and porn fiends (thank you, hentai scene!). But that’ more a matter of splitting hairs than anything else. Returning to our focus, the current narrative around the industry is that it’s little more than an intermediary medium. It’s a step above cartoons, but not far above collectible trading card games like Magic: The Gathering, and seen as something of a phase that most people will grow out of.
In truth, though, we know that this isn’t necessarily the truth. As we’ve seen license acquisitions broaden, and titles from today and yesteryear offered, we’ve also seen several members of the lapsed market returning to the hobby as a whole. This has led to a broadening of the base, and a more varied range of demographics in the average customer.
“But you said the narrative focuses on teenagers!”
That’s quite true. And, to counter this, a new story will need to be told. As I mentioned earlier, a gifted storyteller will be able to distill the virtues of a product in mere sentences. They can distill a product’s appeal and virtues into a simple and relatable tale that is understood by those inside the group and out. And, most important, these special people can convince those outside of the core group that they want to be part of it.
In this case, for example, a good marketer would pick up on the experiences that dooffer an appeal outside the target. They’d pick up on titles like Mushi-shi, Darker Than BLACK, and Hellsing: Ultimate, which deliver experiences that stray from the narrative, and cover themes that would appeal to a different overall demographic (something that, if you recall correctly, Bandai did with Cowboy Bebop to great success). It’s not an easy task, but the organization that manages to find a way to tell a story that reaches these markets will surely reap great benefits.