If you follow me on social media you will know that I have a strong affinity with the little character that goes by the name of Kitty White, or Hello Kitty. At the age of 32 I realise I’m not exactly the target market, despite the fact that Hello Kitty turned 40 this year, so I hope this blog will explain some of the reasons for my mad obsession.
Originally designed by Yuko Shimizu for Sanrio, Hello Kitty products have been produced by the company since 1974. From contact lenses to hotels and theme parks, there are over 50,000 product lines now available in over 130 countries. The extensive range of branded merchandise keeps Hello Kitty front of mind and within easy reach no matter where in the world you are.
Hello Kitty traditionally aims itself at pre-teen girls. However, today the brand attracts a much wider audience all the way from young children to middle-aged adults. Sanrio earns approximately ¥75 million a year and, although figures are not made public, it is thought that the majority of this can be attributed to Hello Kitty products. Is Hello Kitty a cat, you might think so but Sanrio now say not!
Why is it so successful?
Like many long-standing brands, Hello Kitty’s success relies heavily on legacy. Rather than traditional advertising, the brand relies on long-term and multi-generational customer loyalty. Not a year goes by when I don’t purchase a Hello Kitty product either for myself or my niece, hoping that she will enjoy it as much as I did when growing up. It may be hard to think of Hello Kitty as a heritage brand but her iconic status is undeniable.
The brand’s success is deep routed in design. Whilst the product range has expanded over time in response to demand and changing trends, Hello Kitty remains the same. Timeless and classic. The simplicity of the design means that the brand can be easily applied and replicated for different products and generations.
Hello Kitty has an impressive social media following, with 15 million likes on Facebook. The brand posts a lot of visual content and is very active. With such a powerful and global brand presence, there are plenty of new products and images to share on a daily basis. The page proves that Hello Kitty isn’t afraid to keep up with current trends in tech and lifestyle, with Hello Kitty Crochet appealing to the maker movement and 3D printable Hello Kitty collectibles for more tech-inclined fans.
Hello Kitty is often dismissed as a childish toy, or even a shameless capitalist ploy. In some ways she is both but look closer and you will see that Hello Kitty is one of the most powerful brands of our time, representing a pop art and a cultural phenomenon in her own right.