Big corporations are introducing a new job title, the Customer Experience Officer or CXO. His or her job? To understand the “journey” that customers make to buy a product. One suspects that the acronym came first, with some bright young marketer wanting to spiff up his business card with something that looked a bit like “Chief Executive” to the uninformed. If I were feeling cynical, I might even suggest that the entire position is little more than a rebranding exercise to keep companies spending on a particular kind of consultant that doesn’t necessarily do anything. The duties of a CXO, at least on paper, are the sort of thing that any company worth its salt really ought to be filing under “competent marketing.”
But it’s an interesting set of questions for the anime business. What is an anime customer’s “journey”? Where does it take you? Which shops, which town centres, what websites? What snags are there that inhibit your enjoyment – customs fees, posties who don’t bother to ring your doorbell before leaving a “You Were Out” card, or perhaps parents who won’t put Sekirei or Dance in the Vampire Bund on their Visa card on your behalf? These are all variables that a CXO might look at in search of ways of creating happier anime fans, and when explained in that fashion, it seems like a persuasive profession.
One question keeps leaping out at me when I consider the Customer Experience of anime fans, and that’s just how much effort some companies seem to expend appealing to people who are not their customers. One industry insider, who wished to remain anonymous, notes that he had given up offering cosplay prizes, because the amount of costumes for certain shows pre-UK release implied that the cosplayers were too busy torrenting his product to actually fork out for it. His suspicion was confirmed by the alacrity with which one competition winner greeted the receipt of a prize DVD she should, by rights, already have owned.
The question of who is actually buying anime, and who is surprisingly not buying it, is the sort of thing a CXO would answer…
Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #92, 2011.