Find out if you have what it takes in this handy workshop!
Before I joined Crunchyroll as part of our events team I spent over a decade at FUNimation (I still have to remember to not use all caps when writing the word ‘FUN’ anymore). During my time there I had a variety of different jobs. One of those jobs early on in my time there was as a Brand Manager. A Brand Manager’s main job (during my time there) was to oversee launches and promotions for DVD releases. This was around the mid to late 2000s, so before streaming became the main way to watch anime and DVD multi-part box sets ruled the land.
Over the years I worked as a Brand Manager, I and other Brand Managers came across a lot of different experiences with the brands we worked on. Some of these were challenging or at the very least entertaining. The idea came to me that if I find these things entertaining some anime fans might, as well. So I decided to make a workshop to host at conventions about what it was like being a Brand Manager in anime and throw people into some of the more interesting situations that some of us had come across. Of course, I could not share the exact details of these events or any names. Partners stop being your friend-DA when you break your NDA. We had to make a fake anime series, so Ninja Blood War Host Club in Space was born!
Adam in the Brand Manager workshop days!
Working with some other people in the company we came up with a summary, taglines, general information, and even some art. Now having all these assets I wrote up six different parts of launching a brand and gave each scenario a selection of possible outcomes for people to choose from as how to deal with each situation. I gave the workshop the name, “Shoot The Hostage - An Adventure in Brand Management” to help get people to attend. The term “shoot the hostage” referred to the famous moment from the Keanu Reeves '90s action movie classic Speed, which had the idea of stopping a gunman from taking a hostage by shooting the hostage in the leg so the gunman had to let them go to get away. Basically trying to make the best, but difficult, decision possible in a bad situation. I don’t remember how many conventions I took this to but it was fun to watch people try and tackle a multitude of surprises at each one.
I have not hosted this workshop in a long time, but found myself thinking about it again recently. I thought it would be fun to share it online now since the anime world has grown so much with streaming, Crunchyroll, and more, making this more of a snapshot of anime brand management from over a decade ago... but I couldn’t find the original file! Pretty sure I lost it on some old hard drive. Then Lauren on our events team reminded me she went to one of these workshops before she worked at Crunchyroll. She still had the original paper copy I handed out to everyone in attendance, and now you have it as well!
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Excited to see what answers you decide to go with for each of the scenarios thrown at you. Now you are the Brand Manager - good luck!
Shoot the Hostage! - An Adventure in Marketing Anime
Introduction: This is a workshop about part of the anime industry you may not be fully aware of - marketing the launch of an anime DVD. You are each a Brand Manager for the show, Ninja Blood Wars Host Club… in space. Obviously this isn't the name of a real anime, but I assure you that the scenarios you are about to go through have happened many times on many different series.
What is going to happen here will be that I will give you all the info you have available, notice I didn't say need, about Ninja Blood Wars Host Club in space and each group will work together to launch the best product possible. We will go through some of the bigger steps that make an anime DVD launch happen. With each step I will give you a short list of possible answers, very 'Choose your own adventure,' and as a group you will think up what to do. Of course, as this happens I will step in to crush your dreams with issues that have come up in real DVD launches in the anime industry. Please don't ask me what these issues really came up on, I will not tell you.
Think of me as your marketing Dungeon Master. Always throwing dragons and bandits out there just as you're running low on heal potions. After each step we will choose the most popular approach from all the groups and move forward. Any questions so far? All right, let's go over the fact sheet.
Ninja Blood War Host Club in Space
Number of episodes: 26
Release packaging strategy: Two 13-episode box sets, 3 months apart
Episode running time: 22 minutes
Licensor: Super-Lucky-Fun-Time! Consortium Project
Original Production Studio: Kermit
Rights: DVD, Merchandise, Broadcast, download to own, streaming (5-7 minute clips)
Possible US retailers:
- Online - Congo.com, Correcthings.com
- Brick & Mortar - Great Purchase, MoonCoast, Ceiling*Mart, and misc. local anime shops
Available high-res art:
- Character art, 8 images (one of each of the main characters)
- Promo art, 4 images
- Japanese DVD art, 6 images
- Misc. images, 15 images
Koyuki witnesses his ninja clan fall to the forces of DREAM, a rogue host club bent on conquering the universe one teenage heart at a time. Led by the impossibly charming Shinji Blue, DREAM waltzes toward galactic domination - until Koyuki infiltrates their ranks, disguised as a transfer student from Gamma Prime.
Koyuki abducts Shinji and escapes DREAM's orbital stronghold, but a freak cosmic storm forces a crash landing on Silk-X, an uncharted hot springs world. To get off the planet, the brooding ninja and handsome host must work together to find the ancient Blood Rose. It's definitely not going to be easy. Silk-X's only inhabitants are women -- and the natives are restless!
- In space, no one can hear you scream with delight!
- Their Lethal Charm won't be enough.
Step #1: Initial Branding - (12 months before street date)
All right, you've studied your brand, watched all the episodes, and are familiar with your resources. You're about to sit down with the all the key department heads for the creative kick-off meeting (this is the meeting where the core ideas and plans are first created) and you need to decide who is the demographic (target age range, gender ratio, and general psychograph) as well as start to create an initial brand look.
Issues: The brand has an underlying 'cute' storyline and a decent amount of comical moments, but what will reach the largest audience as well as being truest to the brand is focusing on the characters and the action. Everyone does not agree on what would be best to focus on internally.
a) Not care about what they think and move forward with what you want. You are the Brand Manager. Remember, it's your ass on the line.
b) Go with the opinion of others in spite of your own since you will have to work with them on this project and you don't need it to be any more difficult than it already is.
c) Keep everyone's opinion in mind and not make a final decision on what you want to do until after the meeting.
d) Go with what you believe in but be willing to compromise.
e) Go with what you believe in and be willing to debate your decision until most everyone agrees.
Step #2: DVD Packaging - (10 months before street date)
You and the Graphic Artist for the brand are going through the 35 pieces of art that Japan sent over to decide what to use for the two 13-episode box set releases for the show. The original DVD images mostly appeal to people who have already seen the show (It was a big hit on Japanese TV) and you would rather not use them for the covers. Luckily you have explained this to the Licensor and they understand.
Issues: Unfortunately, most of these images come with rules on how they are to be used set by the Licensor. Here are the rules - which you got months after licensing the brand:
- All promo art is only to be used for promotional materials.
- 5 specific images from the Misc. images group were exclusive to Japanese cell-phone game images and can only be used for cell phone games.
- 5 other specific images from the Misc. images group can only be used for calendars.
- 2 more specific images from the Misc. images group are not to be used at all since the artist who drew them and the director of the series had a 'disagreement.'
- Do not crop or vector any character images.
This leaves you the 8 pieces of character art for limited use, the 6 original DVD covers you don't think work best for the brand, and 3 Misc. images. These last three images have issues as well since one is from their Christmas special, another is a group shot at the beach, and the last one is a great image but it's horizontal, which US retailers don't like.
a) Pick the two best original Japanese cover images and call it a day.
b) Ask for forgiveness, not approval and crop the character images together to create the best DVD covers.
c) Work with your Graphic Artist to make the packaging design super amazing and put some of the unchanged character art on the cover.
d) Explain to Japan that that they need to provide more artwork, but this will force the street date to move.
e) Go with the horizontal image and let your Sales department push it through to the US retailers.
Step #3: Media Plan - (6 months before street date)
You have finished your media plan for the brand and the print ads are about to start being sent out to publications. The back of the box is still in for approval but you have a picture of the front and spine of the first box set at the bottom of the ad. This is important so that people will know what the box looks like when they go pick it up at their local retailer.
Issues: You receive an e-mail from the licensor concerning your ad that reads as follows:
"you can not show the font and spine of the box because that would imply that there is a back of the box, and the back of the box is not yet approved.”
The print ads have to be at the first four publications within 48 hours. You would call them about this issue but it is Bronze Week, a national holiday, in Japan and your contact won't be back in the office till 5 days from now.
a) Pretend you didn't see this e-mail till after you sent out these ads and hope the licensors don't see them.
b) Remove the box from the print ad.
c) Use just the front of the box, making it more 2-D, to try and get around the issue.
d) Give the ad space to another Brand Manager to use for another brand and rework your media plan.
e) Send out the print ad and explain to the licensor why you decided to ignore their request when they get back.
Step #4: Fan Feedback - (4 months before street date)
You have distributed your 60-second brand trailer all over the internet for people to get excited about. The trailer was designed to reach your target demographic in both the anime fan and mass-market areas. It is an intro to the series for both those familiar with it or not.
Issues: Some of the more hardcore fans do not like that the trailer doesn't show off each and every subplot and underlying storyline throughout the series in those 60 seconds. Adding to the railing of hate that is being posted online about the trailer, most of the fans that don't like the trailer are arguing what the focus of it should be. There seems to be at least six different schools of thought on this issue.
a) Spend the next few days online explaining to the fans why the trailer is the way it is.
b) Contact one of the larger anime press websites about sending out your message to the fans that can be summed up as, “screw the little bastards.”
c) Re-cut a new trailer taking in account what you think could make it more fan friendly. You will need to cut back on the number of brand trailers you plan to make for the series overall to give the Trailer department time to do this.
d) Remove the trailer and post clips from the show earlier than you had planned.
e) Do nothing, move forward.
Step #5: Convention Events - (3 months before street date)
You have been working on a cosplay event for the largest anime/comic/movies convention in the US. You have put together cosplay events in the past and followed the same event creation format for this one. The event is less than 30 days out and almost everything is done and on schedule.
Issues: The original creators were not kept in the loop on the event and are now asking for the cosplayers to only use the official Japanese costumes so that only official goods are being used to promote the brand. The biggest problems with this are that there are only 3 official costumes of the 10 characters you need and all the pants have 18" waist measurements.
a) Scrap the event and tell all the cosplayers just to wear official brand t-shirts and pass out flyers instead.
b) Let the Events Manager know he can only use the cosplayers in non-official ways and ask for them to come up with an alternative way of making the event work.
c) Inform the original creators that its too late to change the event even though this could greatly hurt your relationship with them and the licensor down the road.
d) Save the event for a later, but smaller, convention to give you more time to rebuild and redesign to meet the original creator's requests.
e) Offer the event to another Brand Manager who could use cosplayers at the convention without any approval issues.
Step #6: Product Sample - (2 months before street date)
The Inventory department has been working with the manufacturers of the first box set to ensure that all the specification requested are being met. They have just sent over a final product sample for you to take a look at. Please keep in mind that this sample is from the box sets that are, as of 7 days ago, already printing.
Issues: The box looks great in almost every way except that the color of one of the show's main characters on the front of the box wrong. His clothing should be white, not tan. You are very aware that pretty much everyone who worked on the show in Japan as well as most of the fans will notice this.
a) Destroy all the boxes printed so far, eat the cost for this, and change the street date to give the manufacturer time to print more.
b) Make a running change on all the boxes not printed yet - about 40% of the initial printing.
c) Tell the manufacturer they need to fix this, cover the costs, and still make the same date. The downside to this would be if the manufacturer will not agree to do this you would be stuck with a full order of misprinted box sets.
d) Make a running change on all the boxes not printed yet and let both the licensor and the fans know of the error and what you are doing to fix it before street date.
e) Do not correct the art on the first box since it could stop people from purchasing the DVDs until they find the corrected one.
What answers did you choose for each scenario? Let us know how your brand manager experiment went in the comments!