'Hello Kitty': A Japanese Superbrand

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG143
Case Length : 18 Pages
Period : 1974-2006
Organization : Sanrio Co. Ltd.
Pub Date : 2006
Teaching Note : Available
Countries : Japan and the US
Industry : Diversified

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Shintaro Tsuji (Tsuji), the founder of Sanrio, was born in 1927 in the Yamanashi region of Japan.

Tsuji was an engineering graduate, and worked for the Japanese government before resigning to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions.

Tsuji set up the Yamanashi Silk Center (YSC) in 1960, through which he sold silk goods like purses, slippers, etc. However, Tsuji did not find much success in this business initially.

In 1962, Tsuji started selling a line of slippers that had the picture of a strawberry on them. These slippers went on to become a huge success and gave a boost to Tsuji's struggling business. Tsuji realized then that consumers were more attracted to items that had been embellished with some design or character. He was later quoted as saying, "If you attach added value or design to the product, they sell in a completely different way."

After the success of the slippers Tsuji concentrated on developing designs and pictures that could be used to adorn his merchandise. In the meantime, he received a license from Charles Schulz to use the famous Snoopy character on his merchandise. Apart from this, Tsuji also began selling Hallmark greeting cards and Barbie dolls in Japan.

However, these products did not find a good market in the country as Japanese consumers considered them to be too 'western'. Over a period of time, Tsuji recruited artists to develop characters that could be used to decorate items like key chains, cups, etc.

By the end of the 1960s, he had put together an in-house creative team that was responsible for churning out new designs and characters.

Tsuji's intention was to take advantage of the Japanese custom of giving gifts. In Japan, people often exchange small and inexpensive gifts like key chains and other tokens. Even children like to exchange small gifts and small stationery items.

Tsuji noted that there was a huge market for merchandise such as pencil boxes, small purses, etc., that young people could afford to buy...

Excerpts >>

7] The YSC did not actually manufacture any of these products. The manufacturing was contracted out to smaller companies, and YSC concerned itself only with the marketing of the products.

8] "Pick of the litter," http://metropolis.japantoday.com, Issue 513.

9] Born in November 1922, Charles Schultz was the creator of the famous cartoon strip, Peanuts. Snoopy, a dog, was one of the main characters in these cartoon strips.

10] A Missouri, US based company, Hallmark is one of the largest manufacturers of greeting cards in the world.

11] Barbie is one of the most well-known and also one of the best selling dolls in the world. It is manufactured by the US-based toymaker, Mattel Inc.


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