“What is this?” asks the disgruntled baby genius of the hit TV show, Family Guy. “There’s something wrong with the house,” he says as he notices that a good chunk of his home has been ripped apart. Finally, he fearfully utters a statement that all audiences can relate to, “I don’t like change.”
However, according to Murray R. Janewski, this statement is false. Truthfully, people do like change, “Otherwise we would not be so interested in initiating so much change to make things better.” So then why does the consensus seem to be that people don’t like change? Simple: it’s new, unfamiliar, and pulls you away from what you’ve grown accustomed to. However, as Janewski says, people are, indeed, interested in change. So here are three ways to get your audience prepared for change courtesy of a Japanese anime about giant, naked creatures who stomp through unsuspecting towns and eat human beings.
Let Them Know a Change Is Coming
Surprises can be fun, but only when done correctly. There’s a huge different between, “Happy Birthday, here’s a present you weren’t expecting,” and, “Happy Birthday, I’ve invited Ricky, you know, the one who you haven’t seen in years because he’s a jerk.” Even if the invitation meant well — maybe you and Ricky can talk about that disagreement you had six weeks ago — the surprise is going to be met with negative feedback.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter explains this in the Harvard Business Review. “Decisions imposed on people suddenly, with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are generally resisted.” So the proper way to reveal shocking news to your audience is to do it ahead of time. This gives you a chance to explain why this is important and it gives them a chance to adjust.
Introduce the Change Slowly
Let’s go back to the anime mentioned in the beginning by doing a quick crash course. An anime series typically begins in Japan. If it’s popular enough, it’ll make its way to the U.S. If it’s extremely popular, it’ll be re-recorded in English. In the case of this giants-eating-people series called “Attack on Titan,” a company called FUNimation is bringing it to the U.S. While it sounds like this should be met with positivity, the truth is anime fans can be really picky when it comes to the English version of a series versus the original Japanese. This is where FUNimation really came through. Before the English version, they made the Japanese version available on Hulu, Crunchyroll and Netflix, letting fans enjoy the original as it aired in Japan. This gave them plenty of time to focus on the English version while their audience enjoyed the original.
According to an article on the Huffington Post by Hulya Aksu, “The probability of selling to a new customer is 5-20 percent, while selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent.” Knowing this, FUNimation slowly marketed the series to not startle their existing audience while, at the same time, marketing the series to new, potential fans. The dub first premiered at Anime Boston, an anime convention in Boston, Mass. However, FUNimation didn’t just spring this on its audience; fans were made aware ahead of time that the dub was coming. Not only that, but FUNimation released teaser trailers that let fans listen to the dub before the big premiere. At the same time they were revealing voice actors day after day, but making sure to save the main cast for last to build suspense.
Don’t Completely Abandon the Original
One of the things Kanter talks about in her article is how, with change, everything seems different. While change is indeed meant to bring something different, too much of a difference too quickly can shock your audience negatively. “Wherever possible keep things familiar. Remain focused on the important things,” says Kanter.
This is what FUNimation did.
There was a time in anime American history when more than just voices would be changed. Character names would be changed to fit the American audience and content would be changed if the series was “too adult.” While this doesn’t happen too often anymore, the fear is still there. The only change in “Attack on Titan” is the voices; the content is still the same. But FUNimation has taken it one step further: if someone doesn’t want to watch the anime in English, the DVD and Blu-ray will let them switch to Japanese. This shows that they are still invested in the fans who watched the original Japanese version months ago. Just because a change is coming doesn’t mean that the company forgot the fans who made this series so popular to begin with. When making a change, it’s important to recognize, and appreciate, your original audience. Don’t abandon them in favor of the new; guide them along your new journey and let them adjust to it.
Otherwise, you’ll be left with an empty, destroyed remnant of what your brand used to be — complete with man-eating titans — and nobody wants that.