(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

Odd lot: A marketing star from Japan’s Kawaii culture

As of 2019, Hello Kitty is the second highest-grossing franchise of all time, behind Pokémon, having generated $80 billion in lifetime retail sales

Of all the children’s toys one would recognize, Hello Kitty probably deserves a place of her own. Funnily enough, the toy cat which has built an empire of toys, merchandise, TV shows, clothing, music and comics started off on a coin purse.

In the 1960s, Sanrio company’s founder Shintaro Tsuji started noticing how everything with a cute motif would sell better in Japan. This Kawaii (cute) culture went on to dictate all the products of Sanrio – from shoes to stationery. Hello Kitty was designed by Yuko Shimizu in 1974 to be included in the Sanrio line of products, making its first appearance on a vinyl coin purse, pictured sitting between a bottle of milk and a goldfish bowl.

Originally marketed towards children, Sanrio broadened Hello Kitty’s target market to include teens and adults as a retro brand in the 1990s.

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