This is a post by guest blogger Don Sniegowski, the founding editor of the daily franchise news site BlueMauMau.
Domo, the brown lump that is the mascot of Japan’s giant public television and radio broadcasting organization NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation in English) is about to invade the United States. 7-Eleven, the Dallas-based subsidiary of the world’s largest franchise chain, Japan’s Seven and I Holdings Co., is featuring Japan’s Domo on cups and Slurpee straws. The chain will also put Domo and his friends on hot dog holders and coffee cups. To reach the even younger coffee drinkers, 7-Eleven is offering coffee in a special brown Domo cup for just 99 cents. Store signage promoting the coffee deal urges customers to “Obey the Domo.” Hoping to push this promotional viral, the Japanese animation company that originally created Domo, dwarf inc., has prepared webisodes about the brown mascot’s quest for the perfect Slurpee at www.slurpee.com and www.domonation.com. “You won’t be able to go to a 7-Eleven store in October and miss Domo,” said Jay Wilkins, 7-Eleven’s category manager for proprietary cold beverages. “We’ve let Domo fans know he’s coming with notices on Facebook and Twitter, and the online buzz about his 7-Eleven debut has already been building.”
Big Tent Entertainment, the marketing and licensing company behind Domo, helped broker the deal with 7-Eleven. “Because Domo has such a hugely devoted, cult-like following among kids, teens and young adults, we believe he’s a perfect match for 7-Eleven and its iconic Slurpee brand,” said Big Tent chief executive officer Rich Collins. “7-Eleven has created some very cool collectible items that will have Domo fans and Slurpee drinkers alike coming back for more.” Evan Brody, marketing manager for Slurpee and Big Gulp Brands, told BrandWeek a few months ago in as earthy a manner as it gets in trade journals: “Domo lends itself well to the store and our proprietary products and our consumers who… love crazy Japanese sh-t.” Dave Hendricks, an owner of two 7-Eleven stores in Southern California, which often leads the country in picking up on Asian trends, questions whether 7-Eleven’s holding company is trying to perpetuate the same systems and campaigns in America that resonate in Japan. “7-Eleven Japan is starting to inundate the stores with more and more of these things,” observes Hendricks. “I wonder if they are taking into consideration demographic differences.” 7-Eleven spokesperson Margaret Chabris says that is not the case. “We don’t do practices and promotional campaigns because Japan does it,” says Chabris. “We do it because U.S. consumers demand it. Domo is a major Internet phenomenon and a pop-culture character.” In a YouTube search at the time of this posting, videos in Japanese dominate all of the top ten links. A few non-Japanese shorts appear from 11 to 15, mainly dominated by Target or Big Tent Entertainment affiliated videos. Rich Maryyanek, the chief marketing officer of New York-based Big Tent Entertainment, also emphasizes that it was their company that approached 7-Eleven in Dallas with the idea, not 7-Eleven’s Japanese holding company. “We approached 7-Eleven with the idea of the promotion and they instantly felt there was a great fit,” he says. Maryyanek says that his firm considered concepts already in place elsewhere that would fit the retail chain’s business and pondered the best way to approach its consumers.
“We wanted to present an idea that incorporated all the best elements funny, collectible, viral and 7-Eleven in turn presented ideas back that morphed the campaign into what it is today.” Franchisee Hendricks says he knows nothing about the U.S. incubation of this idea: “What I have heard from corporate communication on the merits of this campaign is that this is big in all of the 7-Eleven’s in Japan.”
Don Sniegowski is the founder and editor of Blue MauMau, a daily business news site for franchise buyers and owner-operators. Previously, he led global field operations and franchise development for a quick-print franchising firm. Sniegowski also helped lead global publishing efforts for trade publisher Global Sources Media and led Asia-Pacific retail and operations for Franklin Covey.