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!

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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.

Let it be known that I’m 100% NOT against what we  refer to as disruptive innovation or digital disruption. This is my bag, I’m in it, I’m a player, woo! Innovation is what excites me about my job and gets me out of bed in the morning.

But before we get carried away we  need to have a word with ourselves and remember the meaning of disruption. According to OxfordDictionaries.com, disruption is defined as:

“Disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.”

Uber, the taxi booking tech startup, has faced a real backlash over the last few weeks. Since December’s $40 billion valuation the company has faced a barrage of hostility due to its aggressive rollout strategy and “Wild West tactics“. Uber is facing legal scrutiny across the globe – where government regulation is leading to bans in some countries and cities – not to mention questions of passenger safety, privacy and various ethical issues.

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The surge pricing model, which adjusts prices based on supply and demand, got Uber into hot water when prices increased in response to people trying to flee the Sydney hostage siege. But it is this controversial model that is one element of Uber’s ‘disruptive’ competitive edge, and something the company is trying to patent.

Tech industry folks (the very early adopters who helped catapult Uber into everyday life) are now deleting the app in a boycott that started after allegations of sexism, misogyny and dubious privacy practices. This prompted a trend of tech bloggers posting about deleting the app, causing The Guardian to ask if Uber is “the worst company in Silicon Valley”.

Boycotting Uber is nothing new – Paul Carr wrote “Silicon Valley’s Cult of Disruption”  2 years ago – but it seems to have taken off in the past month as former advocates flee and the press jumps on every negative story. John Naughton wrote an interesting opinion piece recently suggesting that Uber is actually a poor example of innovation; rather its disintermediation using networking technology to be the middle-man, nothing groundbreaking.

Groundbreaking or not one of Uber’s biggest issues is that, in disrupting an established industry, it has failed to demonstrate an acceptable level of social responsibility. Disruptive innovation means the world is being shaken up. Great! But it also means that the world is being shaken up. While change driven by technology is often magical and exciting it is also painful. This has been true forever.

How can TV Companies Give Viewers an Individualized Experience? | #DigitalTransformation #RT https://t.co/r1qSJPma2O pic.twitter.com/wZLTazxFXC

— Ronald van Loon (@Ronald_vanLoon) January 27, 2017

We should embrace the magic but remember the true meaning of disruption. Perhaps more companies should be prepared and open, and maybe a little more responsible.…

The present

Bebo is back! It launched its avatar inspired social app a few weeks ago and has had me hooked ever since. The new app is as a fun hybrid mashup that mixes together all the best bits of BitStrips, Facebook Messenger and Twitter.

Like the BitStrips craze of early 2014 you create a personal avatar, you can even match your eyebrows, shoes and earrings if you like. You can hold a conversation with other Bebo-ites (your real friends) and communicate in a messenger style with some added magic… every time you include a hashtag Bebo generates a fun animation of you (well your avatar) performing that action within your feed. My particular favourites are #twerking #trip and #flappyhead (try that you’ll love it!) The animations are updated everyday to entice you back in.

You can update your status visually whenever you feel the need and share your avatar pic to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It’s addictive!

So will it take off? Well so far I have a whopping total of 10 friends using the app but hope more will join soon. It’s not just for teens either, all mine are in their early 30’s! With 500,000 messages sent in the 6 hours post launch the futures looking bright.

Humorous, visual and addictive… what more could you want? #LOL

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The ghost of Bebo past

The original Bebo social networking platform was founded in 2005 by San Francisco husband and wife team Michael and Xochi Birch. The platform was hugely successful at the start of the social era gaining over 10.7 million users before being acquired by AOL in 2008 and taken offline in 2010 due to users moving to other popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Brought from AOL in 2010 by Criterion Capital Partners Bebo as a platform continued to have an unstable future ahead of it before Michael and Xochi Birch decided to buy back the platform and try to create something new.