Case Study: How Toonami Strategically Used Anime To Market Their Brand - Part 2


Table Of Contents


In part one of this two part blog, we explained the conception and rise of Toonami. Now, we’ll explain how the Turner Broadcasting TV block solidified themselves as the Western voice of anime culture, and frankly, underground urban culture as a whole.

And that culture is incredibly strong - and one brands need to keep in mind, as it managed to bring back to life a brand through the power of social media.  In part two of this blog case study, Hollywood Branded will conclude the innovative methods that Cartoon Network’s Toonami employed to strategically use anime to market their brand. 

Blog - How Toonami... (3)

Creating An Icon

A key takeaway from Toonami’s strategic rise was through the creation of the Toonami Operations Module, or more fondly known as Tom. Tom was the CGI advancement of the previous host Moltar, and he was even voiced by voice acting legends Sunny Strait and Steve Blum. Through Tom’s grizzled and baritone tonality, Toonami amassed a powerful voice; a voice that held a reverence for anime that had not yet been seen in the media. 

Tom operated as an early social influencer. He became the living organism to support the anime community’s love of anime. By creating an independent character for their television block, Toonami also created an icon for consumers to gravitate towards. Tom assisted in elevating Toonami from a mere programming block to a brand.

Speaking For The Audience

Toonami’s greatest contribution to anime and its fansbase was not only its curation of the shows themselves, but the way it allowed the various series to keep their cultural identities intact.

The difference between anime’s barely noticeable reception in the 70’s and its fond warm acceptance through Toonami is due to the cable block’s tender love and care. When Speed Racer and Astro Boy premiered in the U.S., they were marketed simply as foreign cartoons. Their cultural weight in Japan was not translated well on American televisions largely due to their poorly planned delivery.

American cable networks did not know how to properly market anime without stripping it entirely of its Japanese roots. In fact, series like Speed Racer had entire story lines edited out and changed to remove violence and Westernize the content. Using Western marketing techniques alone buried any ties to Japan that these shows had.

This is where Toonami thrived. The average viewer could expect to see not only anime, but also skateboarding demos and music video releases. They introduced their viewers to secretive and uncensored anime through Midnight Run, a special block of programming that also debuted the music of global sensations Daft Punk and the Gorillaz. With a dedication to delivering the finest sounds through their own signature score, Toonami officially became a destination for hyper stylized, underground entertainment. 

 New Call-to-action

Toonami Educated Its Base

Toonami was key for translating to American audiences the difference between a style and a genre. Before Toonami, anime was considered to be merely a genre of animation. This was a form of entertainment that the average American viewer was four decades behind of, so it was imperative for Toonami to show immense diversity in its content lineup.

Even if you weren’t a fan of Sailor Moon, they provided enough options within this style of animation that it became hard to associate disliking Sailor Moon without disliking anime as a whole. The cable block was packed with so many differing titles that it seemed to have an anime for anyone. Of course, this was a deliberate move.

According to Cube:

“48% of consumers expect brands to know them and help them discover new products or services that fit their needs,” (Cube 2015)."

If Toonami was going to act like the Western authority on anime, they would also have to prove it.

New Call-to-action

Resurrected Through Fandom

Despite running for 11 years, Toonami announced its cancellation in 2008 due to rising competition and teetering ratings. Yet, it did not take long for Toonami’s fan base to make demands for a resurrection.

A marketing campaign to bring back Toonami began in 2012 as an April Fool’s prank by the network. Yet, that one video shot Toonami’s average viewership from approximately 200k viewers to 1.5 million viewers in one night. Needless to say, Toonami soon found themselves back on air where they have remained since.  And that success was due to social media.

Get Out There And Leverage Yourself

At this point, you are most likely thinking of new and creative ways to partner your brand or agency with an already existing entity; or, maybe you have content of your own that is destined to receive great exposure on another platform. As mentioned before, one way to increase your brand's awareness is through product placement. This marketing tool gets your brand seen and heard using the leverage of other people's content, and Hollywood Branded provides dozens of blogs and podcasts to help you along the way. 

Check out some of the blogs our team wrote on the subject:

And make sure you check out our e-book guide to Product Placement by clicking the image below!  It provides insider advice on how you can best leverage content partnerships for your brand.

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide