1980’s Cartoons and Online Success

When I think of the challenges that media companies are experiencing in conquering the online world, the list includes these items:

  • Mastering new media
  • Embracing the competition
  • Measuring effectiveness
  • Managing the cultural shift
  • Respecting their foundation while preparing for the future

Are these really so different from the challenges that our 1980’s cartoon friends experienced?

  • GI Joe: Cobra Commander. (although Zartan was a much cooler villain.)
  • My Little Pony: Witches, goblins, and other magical creatures.
  • Transformers: Megatron
  • The Smurfs: Gargamel and Azriel
  • ThunderCats: Mumm-Ra, the “ever-living source of evil.” (imagine having to deal with that everyday!)

So what can we learn from the hundreds of episodes of these cartoons to help navigate the changes to the media industry? I submit the following list: 

  • Mastering new media.

    In the beginning, GI Joe had their land-based stonghold, from which they thwarted evil. Over time, they had to adapt to master the various places and elements that Cobra would strike, including: the ocean, the sky, the arctic, and of course, space. (And, no, this was not just a gimmick to sell more toys!) Likewise, media companies are finding that they must now harness different kinds of media to reach their audience – be it the web, print, video, audio – all tools that achieve a common goal.

  • Embracing the competition.

    Who can forget episode #9 of My Little Pony, when Furbob and Megan were on their way to Flutter Valley, and the a swarm of Stonebacks are about to capture Furbob. What happened to poor Furbob? Megan explained how the Stonebacks weren’t really the enemy, but friends. In the end the Stonebacks helped lead Furbob and Megan to safety. For media companies, they too are beginning to change our viewpoint of the competition. Aggregation of content from around the web, and partnering with other media outlets can actually help them to achieve their goals.

  • Measuring our effectiveness

    While the Autobots used many tactics to fight the Decepticons, few were as useful as their wise friend Prowl:
    “Prowl has the most sophisticated logic center of the Autobots, giving him the ability to analyze any combat situation instantaneously and then advise on the optimal course of action.  For example, Prowl can observe 800 moving objects, compute their probable paths of movement, and determine the proper countermove in 0.05 seconds.” The online world allows us to measure aspects of business like never before. From the page views on an editorial piece, to the reach of a particular ad, measurement is key to success.

  • Managing the cultural shift.

    When Baby Smurf arrived in Smurf Village, everything changed. Even Grouchy Smurf took an uncharacteristic liking to the little baby, protecting him from those who to take him away. In the media industry, print is not dead, but online is growing at a rapid pace. We are all picking up new skills, and learning to think about what we do in new ways. This can affect even the smallest aspects of a company’s culture. As things evolve, media companies must learn to work as a team in new and constructive ways.

  • Respecting our foundation while preparing for the future.

    The ThunderCats universe is a mix of ancient mythology and high-technology. All the while, Lion-O and friends use new tactics and skills in order to recapture the values and traditions that are at risk since their home planet was destroyed. Media companies must continue to value their deep histories that make their business, culture, and products so strong.

 (Thanks to Wikipedia for filling in my memory gaps of 1980’s cartoon lore!)

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