Hello Wine, Hello Beer, Hello Kitty (Wait. What?!?)
Hello Kitty, Hello Beer
Kitty White - A Japanese Bobtail Born in London
Hello Kitty is an icon produced by the Tokyo-based company Sanrio. Released for the first time in 1974, she debuted in the United States in 1976. The adorable kitty, a Japanese Bobtail cat, made her original appearance on a vinyl coin purse. Folklore portrays the Japanese Bobtail as a symbol of fortune. In Japan, long-tailed cats are generally viewed as objects of misfortune, fear, or evil.
Oddly, Hello Kitty was not born in Japan, nor is Hello Kitty her real name. The cute, white kitten with the red bow over her left ear is actually named Kitty White. Created by Ikuko Shimizo, the bow-bedecked beastie was born in London on November 1, 1974 along with her twin sister, Mimmy. Kitty and Mimmy share their home with their parents, George and Mary, a living teddy-bear named Bear, and a garden creature named Marley. Sanrio located the White household in London due to the preponderance of Anglophilia surging through Japan in the 1970s.
The name ‘Hello Kitty’ is a subtle acknowledgement of the trendiness of anything foreign throughout Japan at the time. The name references a kitten with which Alice is playing in a beginning scene in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”. The kitten’s name is, of course, Kitty.
Building a Brand
Building on the discovery that adding ‘cute’ to merchandise exponentially increases profit, Sanrio added the kitten to their early line of characters. Originally, the character bedecked merchandise was found on products only around gift-giving occasions. Before long, character lines, most notably Hello Kitty, began to take-off and merchandise was soon being sold throughout the entire year. The image of Hello Kitty has long since graduated from the original coin purse.
Hello Kitty was originally aimed at pre-adolescent females. From vinyl coin purses, decorated sandals, figurines, and clothing, the line was geared toward girls from the almost-teen category. Now, Sanrio has (sometimes spectacularly) broadened the marketing to include more age groups, especially adult women who have grown up with the character. The forays into the adult market center on the fact that the character represents a comforting, recognizable, and nostalgic image. The Hello Kitty line includes a TV series aimed at young children, two theme parks, school supplies, fashion accessories, and alcohol.
Yes, Hello Kitty can now be found adorning several types of alcohol.
The love that young girls found for a cute, expressionless kitten has grown into an all-out marketing bonanza for Sanrio. Those same young girls, now all grown up, remain enamored with the innocent little kitten. Hello Kitty can help you shop (HK credit card), dress (HK jewelry), find comfort (HK plush dolls), drive (HK smart car), and now Hello Kitty can even help you party.
In an age of Hello Kitty wedding frames, high-heeled shoes, and underwear, is it any surprise that one can purchase a bottle of Hello Kitty wine to pour into Hello Kitty stemware? The cutesy feline has adorned bottles of white wine, chardonnay, and even (try not to be surprised) sparkling pink wine for a number of years. Now Sanrio has invented a line of Hello Kitty beer as well.
The foray into the beer business represents the efforts of the company to capture a niche market. The product was created to entice more Asian women into the male-dominated alcohol and beer drinking market. Currently, the majority of Asian women don’t drink alcohol. Only about 15 percent of these women consider themselves drinkers, as opposed to over 55 percent of the men.
The beer, produced by Long Chuan Beer Company, is currently being sold in China and Taiwan. The low-alcohol product contains only about half the alcohol of regular beer, coming in at about 2.5 percent. In a further ploy to appeal to women, the beer comes in several fruit flavors including lemon, banana, and passion fruit.
Those who have tasted the beverage compare it more to a light, sweet, fruity juice drink than a beer. The company insists the fruity beverage is not marketed toward underage drinkers but toward those women who have grown up with Hello Kitty.
The fact remains that Hello Kitty beer with Kitty White prominently displayed on the can, is nothing more than a low-alcohol, fruity version of a beer. It is intended to do nothing other than bring Asian women into the drinking market. While one may applaud the company for finding yet another niche market for their amazingly prevalent character, one can also be appalled by the seeming lack of morals. After all, do we need to entice grown women into drinking alcohol with an adorable cartoon character from their childhood?
Perhaps it will be all for the good. After getting inebriated with Hello Kitty wine or beer at the bar, women can make sure they’re fully prepared for anything with Hello Kitty condoms and/or personal massagers.
Yes, you again read that correctly, Hello Kitty condoms and Hello Kitty personal massagers, two more actual Hello Kitty products available for those who are now all grown up. Makes one wonder just what might be next - even while bringing a whole new level of meaning to the name ‘Hello Kitty’.
© 2013 Deety Petersen