'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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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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Hello Kitty through the Years



During the early 1970s, Sanrio carried out a consumer survey which revealed that the most popular cartoon characters in Japan were those of dogs, bears, and cats. Accordingly, the company asked its creative team to develop new characters based on these animals. In 1974, Shimizu Yuko (Shimizu), one of the designers who mainly designed wallets for the company, created several characters including designs for a cat, a dog, and a bear.

The design of the cat character was interesting in that it had an oversized round face with two dots as eyes, a button nose, and no mouth.

It also had six whiskers and a red bow on its left ear. The cat, like most other cartoon characters, sat in a human-like posture. One of the most striking features of this cat, however, was that its face was completely expressionless (Refer to Exhibit IV for a picture of the first Hello Kitty design)...

Sanrio's Licensing of Hello Kitty

According to analysts, Sanrio's decision to put Hello Kitty on a wide variety of products was largely responsible for keeping the brand in the public eye for more than three decades. After featuring the cat on a coin purse in 1975, Sanrio had, over the years, branched out to include several other items under the Hello Kitty brand.

Analysts commented that Sanrio had put Hello Kitty on practically everything. Only Hello Kitty featured on items ranging from vacuum cleaners to DVD players, toilet paper to cars and computers to candy.

Said Bruce Guiliano (Guiliano), senior vice president of licensing, Sanrio Inc., "In Japan, it's possible to have your entire house decorated and fixturized in Hello Kitty…. There's even a Hello Kitty dishwasher."

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