Enduring Appeal and Global Impact of Hello Kitty: The Iconic Brand

Hello kitty is a cartoon character of a small cat that looks kind and cute, with a button nose, two black dot-yes, six whiskers and a ribbon or flower in her hair. Hello kitty has no mouth and this represents a major source of emotional association for buyers and buyers can project many different feelings onto the little cat. Owners and their cat can be happy, sad, thoughtful or any other feeling the user wish to feel.

Hello Kitty was firstly introduced in japan in 1974 and was brought to the united state in 1976.

Hello kitty is a segment of Japanese popular culture and hello kitty is a Japanese bobtail cat also knows as kitty white. Currently hello kitty is 39 years of age, at the age of 36 sanrio has introduce hello kitty in to a global market, hello kitty trademark is worth over 5 billion annually.

Competitive analysis Part A

Barbie doll is a fictional character, born on March 1959. First introduced as the original fashion model, Barbie doll has since had more than 130 careers, represented more than 40 different nationalities and collaborated with more than 75 different fashion designers.

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Through out the years, the Barbie brand has evolved with girls, extending into entertainment, online and has 45 different consumer products categories. Barbie has TV commercials, cartoons and celebrity gossip magazine . Barbie dolls is a very successful brand allover the world but most especially in America it is number one brand when it comes to Barbie dolls.

The difference between Barbie doll and Hello Kitty is the fact that Barbie doll has more popular and better options and more customer base, when it comes to young teenage girls.

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Barbie doll let kids think and act imagining roles as an adult. That was the core idea Ruth handler the creator of Barbie doll had in mind, she thought that through the dolls little girls could be anything she wanted to become. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has a choice. Barbie doll has a lot of merchandising product but there only apply to young children, the only adult product Barbie doll has is t-shirt merchandise. In the category of merchandising products for adults Hello Kitty has more advantage than Barbie, hello kitty offers more merchandising products for adult of any age group.

There are many reasons for hello kitty popularity but One of the important factors that differentiate Hello Kitty in the world of cartoons and characters is that Hello Kitty is not alive with stories, gimmicks and pre-determined personality before it reaches the people. By being a simple cartoon with very minimal characteristics, the Hello Kitty brand actually acts as a canvas upon which people can decorate with their own embellishments, thereby personalizing the cartoon, giving it a unique personality and internalizing the cartoon into their lives. This simple yet powerful differentiator set the Hello Kitty brand apart from competitors.

Target Market

Sanrio initially targeted the Hello Kitty merchandise at girls aged between 4 and 6. The goods were priced low so that the target consumers could buy them. Hello Kitty became an instant hit with small girls because of her “cute-ness”. As a result, Hello Kitty merchandise began selling well in the market. The fact that the merchandise was priced affordably added to its Sanrio launched Hello Kitty and other characters in the US. Here too, the company noticed that Hello Kitty was more popular than its other Sanrio counterparts. However, in the 1980s,

Hello Kitty began losing its ground in Japan, due to the growing popularity of new animation other companies. Animation continued to grow in popularity throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s, not only in Japan, but also in other countries (Mainly in Southeast Asia and North America). In the mid-1980s, Sanrio recruited a new designer, Yamaguchi Yuko (Yamaguchi).

Yamaguchi was believed to be responsible for extending the Hello Kitty brand to a wide array of items including candy, accessories, clothes, and electronic goods. By this time, Sanrio had be-gun efforts to make the Hello Kitty brand more attractive to teenaged girls going beyond its traditional market of small girls in a bid to revive the fading brand. Sanrio got the idea after a high school girl wrote a letter to the company in1986 complaining that they did not produce products for girls her age.

This made Yamaguchi to visit various shops in Japan to find out what customers expected from Hello Kitty. She realized that although the company had positioned Hello Kitty as a character for small girls, the brand appeal of hello kitty went far beyond the original target market. She then convinced the company towards taking a step of making Hello Kitty acceptable to older age groups.

She then introduced a sober black and white Hello Kitty design in order to attract older consumers. However in spite of the efforts the product was not much appealing in the eyes of older customers. Hello Kitty got a fresh lease of life in the mid-1990s, after Sanrio managed to successfully change the positioning of the brand. This period was called the “Kitty boom” by some industry observers. In 1996, Yamaguchi designed “hip” products like Hello Kitty mobile phone cases targeted at high-school girls. These products were popular and said to have sold well.

SWOT Analysis


Hello Kitty has a strong fan base
Hello Kitty is different and unique
Loyal customer


Less Innovation
Hello Kitty is mouth less


Many Opportunities for Senrio towards merchandising
Senrio needs to expend into Africa
More production of merchandising for sanrio


Threat from competitors like Barbie doll
Barbie doll has more merchandising than Hello kitty.


Hello kitty has a strong fan base and over the years of existence, hello kitty has continued to grow. Hello kitty is differentiated by it signature of having no mouth which differentiate it from all other competitors. Each and every month new types of hello kitty merchandise are being introduced by sanrio and sanrio continue to grow it market shares by introducing hello kitty overseas. Young women who are fans of hello kitty since they’re where young continue to buy hello kitty products and merchandise, hello kitty has a strong loyal customers fan bases Customers that has always being loyal to the brand, over the years they continue to patronize the brand.

Another reason for Hello Kitty's consistent popularity over the decades has been its ability to change and keep up with the times. Instead of treading the path of consistency and standard design usage, a brand that constantly changes in response to the needs of the consumers and of the society at large, will have greater chances of becoming an icon. Hello Kitty has followed that path. Though the simple sparse lines and the bow is a constant, the cartoon has many versions, many colors, many characters that are related to Hello Kitty and a diverse set of products, which carry the brand logo. These reinforce the excitement about the brand and allow people to develop a loyal collection of Hello Kitty branded items.


There is not much innovation that goes into hello kitty, innovation is limited, and the only innovation is which goes in to hello kitty is changing of colours and clothes. The look is basely the same over the years of existence the look of hello kitty has not transform. Hello kitty has no mouth and minimal design choices. Lack of mouth shows an expression that the mouth-less hello kitty cannot communicate and it fails to account for the work she actually performs. Opportunities

There are many opportunities for hello kitty and it merchandise, hello kitty is well known in America and Europe but hello kitty is not known in Africa. Sanrio needs to expend and introduce hello kitty into Africa. Africa is a very big market where competition is not much by hello kitty tapping into Africa they will easily capture the market and increase their market share. Sanrio needs to introduce more merchandising to capture young adults both females and males. Sanrio in 2007 decided to extend the brand to menswear sensing an opportunity. Threat

Hello kitty is indeed facing a threats within it origin and also overseas competitors as well such as Barbie doll. Hello kitty doesn’t having a mouth might pull in threat from other competitors. Barbie doll is indeed a big threat towards Hello Kitty they have more merchandising and Barbie doll, more than Hello Kitty has, and Barbie dolls has different characters and different types and kind of personality.

Brand Merchandising Strategies of Hello Kitty

Brand merchandising strategies of hello kitty one of the reason why sanrio decided to create other merchandising is due to few years back hello kitty products was losing there customers, most of the customers have all grown up and don’t really see much need to patronize the company. According to yuko shimizu the designer of hello kitty products she said one day she was at her office and she got a mail from one of their customer who wrote to her saying that she is in love with they product but the company doesn’t and have not created products for older age group, that it would be nice of them to do so, ever since then sanrio has created merchandising for older people and also the designer has been taking a close look at their customer perception of their products; going to sanrio outlet to observe customers intake of their product.

Sanrio merchandise spans a broad spectrum of categories including stationery, school supplies, bags, accessories, room decor, candy, and plush characters. These lifestyle products are for all parts of the day, from morning to night. Sanrio gifts are appropriate for virtually all gift-giving occasions, from birthdays to Christmas, other holidays, graduation, good grades, visits with friends or relatives and more. From brightly colored backpacks and lunchboxes for elementary school children, to cell phone cases, fashion bags and accessories for teens and adults, Sanrio has something for everyone.

Sanrio's product planning and design teams are continuously developing new products and character designs to meet the changing needs of all our various customers. We listen to our guests, friends and customers because a Sanrio gift is truly more than just a gift; it's an expression of love and friendship. It's the small gift that brings the big smile. According to sanrio, Small gift big smile, it's more than just a catchy phrase; it's the foundation of everything we do, and we're proud to say we've been creating smiles for over 40 years. At Sanrio we believe that a gift is more than just a gift. It is a means of expressing our heartfelt feelings for others. This philosophy guides all Sanrio activities, whether we're designing a stationery set, a retail store or animated television series.

Upstream Transition

Hello kitty has a lot of merchandising products such as cell phone, videos, digital camera, birthday cards and room decoration wallpapers. The merchandising of all Hello Kitty additional products is very feasible. Mostly customer who are use to hello kitty brand from child hood when there all grown up and turn into adults they still go for hello kitty products because sanrio still offer not just products for children but also products for adults there age. Merchandising of hello kitty is very successful all around the world and it has help sanrio market share increase.

The merchandising of hello kitty has been a very big success for sanrio, due to the success of hello kitty merchandising every month Sanrio create 100 to 200 new products of hello kitty. Hello Kitty merchandise continues to grow, customers can find almost any kind of merchandise from Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty continues to target adult customers; adult customers can purchase Hello Kitty car accessories merchandise, seat covers, DVD organizers, steering wheel cover, sunshades, license plate frames, key chain and air fresheners . One of the successful upstream of Hello Kitty merchandise is Hello Kitty clothing lines, clothing lines for all age group of customers. Products like graphics t-shirt, tanks, nightgowns, swimsuits, underwear, hoodies, and rain boots, slippers and also pajamas. Older hello kitty customers seem to be pleased with the clothing line, it really caught the attention of older customers.

Hello Kitty should branch out into bakery cakes and cupcakes, cupcake made out of 3D picture of Hello kitty. The cupcakes can be used occasionally for example birthday party’s and anniversary functions. Bakery cake will be appealing to children’s and adults at the same time with the image displayed in 3D customers will happy accept it. Hello kitty should also branch out in to toiletries item for children and newborn babies for example diapers, baby wipes. This will be a good branch out for Sanrio since most of their products are targeting children between 4 to 5 of age, it will be an easy transition for Sanrio to expend into toiletries. Parent can easily nurture their children from birth into the use of Sanrio products, such as toiletries for their kids and later down the line they can upsell into buying hello kitty products and other Sanrio merchandise.

The transition of hello kitty brand into merchandising products is feasible due to Hello kitty has a huge fan base around the world, teenagers and adults customers are emotionally attached to hello kitty. Sanrio moving into merchandising of products definitely was an easy transition for sanrio. Sanrio and Hello Kitty is a strong brand and with a large market share, basely with the large market share sanrio has entering into new business
would not be difficult for the company.

Brand Extensions and Consistency

Hello kitty will continue to be famous and consistence from 10 to 20 years to come from now, the brand has been successful ever since it started 40 years ago in japan and from the looks of it hello kitty is going strong in the market and not just in Asian countries but also in America and Europe as well. Hello kitty is not just a product that customers view as just a physical products but customers are emotional attach to it.

Hello kitty is a product which customer can object their feeling to them, customer view them as a friend they can connect with, when customer are feeling sad or happy hello kitty feels the same way they feel, that is one of the reason it has no mouth where it shows no particular feeling. Other Barbie doll products, which are created by other companies, those Barbie dolls has a mouth, which the sign on the mouth shows the Barbie dolls are happy. Hello kitty doesn’t have a mouth to show it feelings either happy or sad. This is one of the reason customers connect to hello kitty emotionally because when customers are sad it sad with them and when they are happy it also happy with them.

The success of hello kitty was so large that each year the character’s products represented half of the company’s sales. The company then began to license their most popular character in 1976. The increasing demand in the United States propelled sanrio to open up a subsidiary in California called sanrio. Even with the continued popularity of hello kitty, the company still continued to create new character, however none of them have become quite successful and popular as hello kitty throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, the company continued to expand internationally to Europe, Latin America and other Asian countries. Back home in japan the brand continued to be successful sanrio decided to open two theme parks based on hello kitty character (Sanrio company, 2009)


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Updated: Mar 22, 2023
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Enduring Appeal and Global Impact of Hello Kitty: The Iconic Brand. (2016, May 06). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/hello-kitty-essay

Enduring Appeal and Global Impact of Hello Kitty: The Iconic Brand essay
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