I’m not an especially big fan of Hello Kitty.
Sure, it’s cute and a bit quirky. And I do like pink well enough.
But enough is enough, and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that my new kitchen – which I am hoping miraculously appears where my old kitchen was, now that I have a mental image of it – will not include a Hello Kitty crockpot, microwave, or grill.
My new bedroom look – which I am hoping miraculously appears where my old bedroom is, now that I have a metal image of it – will not include a Hello Kitty bed, mirror, or chest of drawers.
My new bathroom look – which I am hoping miraculously appears where my old bathrooms are, now that I have a metal image of them – will not include a Hello Kitty toilet seat, bathmat, or toilet paper.
No, I’m never going to get all that enamored about a cartoon character, especially one that has no mouth. (What’s this supposed to mean? How does Hello Kitty talk? How does she eat? How does she bite? Spit venom?)
And then there’s the disturbing associations that crop up between Hello Kitty and pedo culture. (Let’s not go there.)
But, as iconic cartoon characters go, you have to give it to Hello Kitty. Her branders know how to brand, her marketers know how to market, her merchandisers know how to merchandise.
And I’ll take Hello Kitty over generations of Disney princesses.
They may not be as wan and insipid as they once were – recently they’ve taken on an increasingly alien creature look – but those Disney gals remain a bit syrupy and chirpy for my tastes. (Even back in the day, I preferred Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan’s Wendy to Cinderella and Snow White. At least Alice and Wendy got to have adventures that didn’t involve rescue-by-prince.)
Mostly, I’ve gotta go with Hello Kitty, voice-less and all.
But the market has a mouth, and it’s speaking, and Hello Kitty – who’s advancing into middle age, turning 40 this year – is getting pushed around a bit. Not surprisingly, the poor dear is getting frozen out by none other than:
Princess Anna and Olaf the Snowman. The popularity of the Walt Disney animated movie Frozen has hit Sanrio [the company that owns Hello Kitty licensing], especially in the U.S., where children who once might have asked their parents for Hello Kitty merchandise are instead favoring products with the Disney characters. The Frozen effect is one reason Sanrio’s stock price is down 28 percent this year, compared with a 2 percent increase for the benchmark Topix index. (Source: Business Week.)
Me, I think it’s too early to say sayonara to Hello Kitty.
I doubt that Princess Anna and Olaf the Snowman have the staying power of Hello Kitty, which has at present some 50,000 products available in her name.
And Hello Kitty even had her own convention this year, which Anna and Olaf did not. Plus hotels continue to go up in Japan with Hello Kitty rooms. Not to mention that Hello Kitty’s inscrutable visage is quite popular in China, where there’s a lot of room for growth.
But Disney is, of course, no slouch when it comes to keeping its pipeline full of characters-du-jour, while holding steady with iconic oldies like Mickey and Winnie the Pooh. And I surely see more adults wearing Tigger sweatshirts than I do in Hello Kitty gear.
Hard to pick a rooting favorite when it’s one company turning kids into lifetime crap consumers vs. another company turning kids into lifetime crap consumers.
So I don’t necessarily want Hello Kitty to win anything.
I just think it’s too early to write her obituary.
I suspect that this cat has a few more lives left. (And, yes, in case you’re wondering, it is possible to get a Hello Kitty coffin.)