Conventions, Trade Shows and the Anime/Manga Bubble

October 18th, 2009

Another essay in my series on marketing anime and manga in a rapidly changing business environment.


It’s obvious to most people that anime and manga companies have pulled back *significantly* in their relationships and appearances at conventions, in a way that is not dissimilar to tech companies after the first Internet bubble burst.

I remember clearly walking through Javits Center at the Internet Expo which, at its height, filled the whole building – and two large tents set up outside. The last time I attended the Expo (many years ago) it was in one room. Few large companies were there, and their presence was significantly scaled back.

Anime and manga companies have seen their first bubble burst. And, it struck me that what anime and manga companies have not learned was something that all the tech companies that attended that year did – reward the consumer contingent upon some kind of commitment.

About 7 years ago, I was the moderator at a very large industry panel at Anime Expo. The line for the panel was incredibly long, but I realized that this was because they were giving away t-shirts to anyone who walked in the room. It was no surprise to me that people were entering the room, getting their t-shirt and exiting the room through another door. Even then, I though that could have been handled better.

At an anime convention, every company there has already accomplished the first part of my Microniche Marketing basics – Find Your Audience. The audience has plopped itself in their laps, ready to be engaged.

For the most part, companies use panels to achieve the second part – Engage Your Audience. This is a topic for another essay entirely, because companies go through staff rollover all the time, so the message, the marketing and the format never really has a chance to mature. Companies are still holding the same awkward,”are you getting this title?”-type Q&As that they’ve been holding since the beginning of time. “Engage” is a step that is still a little weak.

But where anime and manga companies really fail is at Reward Your Market. Instead, they have been rewarding the *audience,* regardless of their commitment to the company. That means there’s no meaningful way to gauge genuine interest and the size of the market becomes conflated with the size of the audience. Market Research cards and mailing lists are not commitment. It’s easy enough to fill out a card or sign up for a list with fake or junk info.

There are only two real measurements of commitment – Time or Money.

Time and Money are measurements of passion. Reward people who give you Time or Money and your reward will have significance. People value want they pay for and do not value what they receive for free. Make fans sit through a 10-minute discussion of why subs and scans are killing what they love – then reward them for sitting through it. It reinforces the time they spent and the *value* of that time. And the thing they get becomes more meaningful because they had to work for it.

Instead of handing out bags to anyone who stops by in hopes that free publicity translates into sales, how about giving bags to people who pre-order one of a specific set of items, or who sit through your panel, get the card handed out at the end and cash it in for that goodie? Make your consumer *work* for that reward and they’ll value it more.

Don’t distance yourself from the retailers that sell your product – make your promotions part of their sales. If a person buys $100 worth of anime, why not throw in an extra something? This person has already committed their time and money to you – reward them for it.

Anime and manga companies need to mature their promotional process and recognize that by taking control of the message they can grow their market, not just their audience.

It’s not just about picking and choosing where you set up a booth, but also about picking real performance indicators for that presence. “How many bags did we give away?” becomes a real indicator of success when you know that for each bag you gave away, a fan gave you their commitment.

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6 Responses

  1. I remember one time I went to a convention in Tampa Florida and Dan from’s “Ask Dan” was there holding a panel. At the end, he started asking folks trivia questions and if they got it right, they got a “Miami Guns” T-Shirt which they said only 100 were made. One of the questions I remembered from the convention I went to in Raleigh, NC was the answer to the ‘ultimate question’. Luckily since I remembered the answer (and later read the book of origin), I answered “47!” and got a Miami Guns T-Shirt.

    My other moment of reward came from MacWorld 2003 when I got a complete copy of Wipeout by just naming the year that was in the title.

  2. @Ted the Awesome – Contests and games aren’t quite the same thing. That’s rewarding a fan for something they have, not something they give. It’s similar, but does not reward commitment.

  3. Laurie says:

    I’ve seen that the anime community tend to have a low commitment in areas thats over abundent.

    Only with nitches of nitche do I see more commitment.

    same thing with webcomics, only 2-3% of your audience is converted to sales and yet so much work for a daily update.

  4. BruceMcF says:

    That’s normal and cuts across multiple media. Consider the active commitment of audience members to most TV shows and the commitment to a show like Firefly.

  5. Senbei says:

    (typically off topic) Did you go to Anime Expo in 2000, 2004 or 2005? You would have been able to meet Range Murata.

  6. 2002 and I probably wouldn’t have tried. I’m not a huge fan and very rarely interested in the Guests.

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