'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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What made Hello Kitty click?

Over the years, experts have tried to analyze the reasons for Hello Kitty's extraordinary popularity worldwide. They were puzzled as to why only Hello Kitty, from among the many other characters created by Sanrio, clicked in the market.

They have tried to discover the reasons that made Hello Kitty the 'Queen of cute' for many female consumers worldwide. Many analysts attributed Hello Kitty's success in Japan to the prevalence of the Kawaii culture in the country. The Japanese, regardless of their age, were known to have a passion for 'cute' objects.

For instance, it was considered normal for grown women in Japan to be seen with mobile phone cases that were adorned with cartoon characters, or for banks to print check books with pictures of cartoons. The postal department issued stamps featuring popular cartoon characters, and it was said that even the local police departments in Japan had cute-looking mascots.

Is Hello Kitty losing her charm?

Even though Hello Kitty was still among the top-selling brands in Japan as of early 2006, the avenues for future growth seemed limited. The increasing popularity of Winnie the Pooh among female consumers prompted analysts to say that Hello Kitty's cachet was at risk in Japan.

Analysts noted that Sanrio had succeeded in reviving the brand in the 1990s by repositioning Hello Kitty to make her appealing to a larger number of people. However, they were doubtful if the company could pull off the same trick a second time. There were several reasons for this. Hello Kitty had already been placed on a wide range of items and there were few new items left.

Further, a demographic shift was taking place in Japan, with the number of young people decreasing over the years owing to low birth rates. This in turn limited sales as Sanrio's target consumers were young people. Also, as the character-goods business in Japan had its roots in the Kawaii culture, brands like Hello Kitty and others were expected to lose their appeal once the culture died out in the country.


Exhibit I: Hello Kitty Diamond Jewelry Collection by Kimora Lee Simmons
Exhibit II: Sanrio's Main Businesses as of Early 2006
Exhibit III: Various Subsidiaries of Sanrio as of Early 2006
Exhibit IV: The First Design of Hello Kitty
Exhibit V: The Hello Kitty Coin Purse
Exhibit VI: Celebrities Endorsing the Hello Kitty Brand
Exhibit VII: The Hello Kitty Platinum Statue
Exhibit VIII: A Brief Biography of Hello Kitty
Exhibit IX: Operating Profit/(Loss) of Sanrio by Business Segment from 2004 to 2006


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