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Friday, Dec 2, 2022
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Serving Japanese Culture

Bandai Namco’s Pac-Man is one of several intellectual properties (IPs) that Kura Sushi USA Inc. has partnered with to keep its “Bikkura Pon” prize items and other promotions ever-changing and buzzworthy.

“Our IPs are an important way for us to access and target consumers that may have different backgrounds and interests,” Chief Marketing Officer Mark Finnegan told the Business Journal.

Promotions often focus on anime shows, video games, and other Japanese brands. Past partners have included Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, Demon Slayer and Sonic the Hedgehog.

The first brand collaboration was in 2019 with Naruto Shippuden.

The partnerships have allowed the restaurant chain to entice a variety of fan bases into stores, alongside frequent restaurant-goers.

“There are some properties that significantly outperform what you expected,” Chief Executive Hajime Uba said of the link-ups.

The promotions also are seen as a perk for the restaurant workers.

“It’s been really fun creating that environment for our team” and customers alike, Chief Operating Officer Sean Allameh said.

The collaboration often extends to outside the stores and onto social media.

With popular shows like Demon Slayer, the restaurant chain leaned on influencers to drive traffic. Since the English voice actors of the show were based in LA and already had large social media followings, Kura Sushi was able to create plenty of content for its social channels and reach a greater audience.

Finnegan also pointed to how these IPs should represent the core of what Kura Sushi is, acting as an ambassador for Japan-based culture, he said.

“It’s authentic and represents a little view into what retail is like in Japan, and it’s driven a lot of what goes on in the [global] marketplace,” Vice President of Investor Relations and Business Development Benjamin Porten said of the link to cultural representation.

“If you can find the right IP, it’s a rallying point that drives folks in,” he said.

Looking forward, other IPs the team would consider include Pokémon and Super Mario.

While not sharing what was in the works, Finnegan noted having a robust pipeline.

“As a brand, we’re going to keep pushing the envelope and stay at the forefront of providing a unique and meaningful experience [that] Orange County residents can look forward to,” Finnegan said.
—Emily Santiago-Molina

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