NEW GEN Z 101: Unlock & Outlast Microtrends

How Brands Are Using Anime to Reach Gen Z & Millennials

Feb 22 2022

Anime has seen a surge in recent years. These five brands are incorporating the genre into their marketing to reach young fans…


TL;DR:

  • Young people have been driving the popularity of anime, and the majority say they like the genre 
  • Gen Z and Millennials’ interest in anime is another sign of their interest in content from other countries, and a huge opportunity for brands in entertainment and beyond
  • Brands are finding ways to incorporate anime into their marketing through collaborations or creating their own original content

YPulse has been tracking young people’s borderless love for content from other cultures for years now, and called out anime as one of the biggest examples of global trends taking off with North American young consumers. The “Netflix Effect” led to anime shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra to trend, making them some of the most-watched series on the streaming platform. Last summer, manga and anime streaming service Crunchyroll announced they surpassed five million paid subscribers globally, and 120 million registered users overall. From the surge in Snapchat app downloads to try out its anime lens, to podcasts exploring anime and manga culture, and the Cowboy Bebop subreddit that’s been keeping the series alive for years, it’s clear that young consumers’ interest in anime is strong. In fact, we used our on-demand survey platform PULSE to dig a little deeper: 66% of 16-34-year-olds tell us they like anime, while over a third say they watch anime on a weekly basis.

But it’s not just entertainment brands who are taking advantage of the anime boom. The surge in anime interest has inspired brands across all industries to make products or collections inspired by anime’s distinctive style and iconic characters and movie classics. From collaborating with popular anime studios and series to creating their own anime projects, here are five brands that have respectfully incorporated the genre into their marketing to reach a new generation of young consumers:


Loewe’s Studio Ghibli Collections
YPulse’s PULSE on-demand survey found that a quarter of 16-34-year-olds are interested in fashion brands collaborating with anime studios for collections, and a third are interested in exclusive merch from a popular anime show or movie—and some high-end labels have been taking this path. Last January, luxury brand Loewe launched a My Neighbor Totoro collection that included “whimsical” wallets, handbags, and shirts featuring Totoro and other characters from the beloved Hayao Miyazaki film. Many of the pieces also include the “forest spirit animals” and bright colors often seen in anime cartoons. Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson said in a statement that his love for the movie and the nostalgia it stirred in him inspired the development of the collection: “There is a natural longing for heartwarming feelings right now. When I think of a movie that affords me that kind of solace, speaking just as directly to a child as it does to an adult, that movie is My Neighbor Totoro. The story of Mei and Satsuki’s friendship with the magical Totoro and his cohorts, the mischievous dust bunnies, who can’t be seen by adults but only by the children who love them, is truly touching. It is a product of craft in the form of an animated movie.” This year, the Spanish luxury house worked on another partnership with Studio Ghibli for a Spirited Away collection, which debuted last month. Similar to the My Neighbor Totoro collection, many of the pieces in the Spirited Away collection include handbags, shirts, and accessories with Chihiro, No-Face, and other characters and creatures from the 2001 film.


Gucci’s Doraemon Capsule Collection
Loewe isn’t the only luxury brand that has launched an anime collection. Gucci released a Doraemon capsule collection last January ahead of the 2021 Lunar New Year. Doraemon is a traveling blue robotic cat from a popular Japanese manga and anime series of the same name, and the collection had more than 50 items featuring the blue robotic cat, including an assortment of coats, jackets, track pants, and shorts with Gucci’s classic GG monogram pattern emblazoned on the pieces along with “disparate Doraemon accents,” showcasing the figure sleeping, playing, and having fun. But this isn’t the only time the luxury brand dabbled in the anime space: Gucci also debuted a virtual fashion line on Pokémon GO with The North Face in the same month. One industry expert told Marketplace that Loewe and Gucci’s collections allow luxury brands to experiment with their products and interact with different subcultures of young people, in this case the anime community. And as luxury brands continue to shift their marketing to appeal to young people, listening to their niche interests is key. We told you that Gucci is a top luxury brand that Gen Z and Millennials want to own and they clearly know how to reach young consumers with the crossover into the world of anime.

Sandy Liang x Vans’ Anime-Inspired Apparel & Sneaker Collection
New York-based fashion designer Sandy Liang and Vans are no strangers to working together. The two brands have partnered twice before, but in their third and most recent partnership, they launched a men’s and womenswear apparel and sneaker collection that draws heavily on ‘90s childhood nostalgia, informed by “grandma fashion, sport femme, nostaglia, humor” and of course, anime cartoons. YPulse found that over a quarter of 16-34-year-olds are interested in brands releasing products with anime-like graphics, and according to Teen Vogue, the collection’s designs feature graphics like “anime eyes, butterflies, and flowers with rings like Saturn.” Not only does the collection lean into the anime trend, but it combines the popular grandpacore fashion trend that young people have been getting into.


ColourPop x Sailor Moon Makeup Collection
ColourPop is known for its unique collaborations from its NBA mashup to the various Disney tie-ins. We told you about the brand’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons palettes and cosmetics. And last February, ColourPop debuted its first anime-themed collaboration inspired by Sailor Moon. Nearly a quarter of 16-34-year-olds told us they’re interested in makeup brands collaborating with anime studios for a collection—and according to the brand, it was their “most requested collaboration from fans.” The collection featured eight new pieces including a 12-pan Pretty Guardian eyeshadow palette, an array of matte neutrals, shimmering golds, and pops of pink and purple that give a “soft but colorful vibe reminiscent of the anime cartoon.” There are also two lip duos including Moonlight and Daylight and four lippies inspired by Sailor Moon herself, with the shade names Bunhead, Moon Tiara, Usagi, and of course, Sailor Moon. Then, there are two pink-toned blushes in shades From The Moon and Cat’s Eye inspired by Usagi’s “famous flush,” and Luna (the famous black cat in the show) is emblazoned on many of the products.


Acura’s Chiaki’s Journey Series
However, brands collaborating with anime studios or making products inspired by classic anime films, TV shows, or characters aren’t the only ways that brands are bringing the genre into their marketing. In some cases, brands are creating their own original anime content, and 31% of 16-34-year-olds tell us this is something they want to see. For Acura’s latest campaign, the auto brand focused on its Japanese roots with anime series-based ads focusing on the story of Chiaki, a Japanese-American girl who learns how to race cars. In the series, Chiaki learns how to drive from her uncle Noboru as she attempts to beat her nemesis, Erich Kang. The ads feature four short episodes, highlighting Acura’s new Type S performance cars. The series premiered at this year’s virtual Sundance Film Festival and was fleshed out on social media to continue the stories of each character and their backstory. Acura’s vice president and brand officer notes the goal of the campaign was to emphasize “fun” while introducing young consumers to the brand’s vehicles.


Taco Bell’s Manga-Style Ad & Comic Book Tie-In
For years, the fast food chain’s Live Más Productions has released over-the-top Hollywood blockbuster-style and star-studded trailers to promote its popular Nacho Fries. But last year, they took a different approach with an anime-style ad and digital comic tie-in. The ad focuses on animated protagonist Rei, who is the leader of the “Fry Force,” which is “a team of pilots who control giant humanoid robots in a battle against spice-loving monsters.” A spot showing Rei’s quest to save her brother and safeguard Nacho Fries premiered in late July, a day after the menu item hit stores nationwide again. The ad premiered to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony. And according to Cartoon Brew, it was inspired by “mecha-vs-monsters anime classics like the Evangelion and Gundam franchises.” The ad is clearly a hit with young viewers: it currently has over 862K views on YouTube, with many of the comments begging Taco Bell to turn the ad into an actual, full-blown anime series.

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