In 1971, design company Sanrio Co. headed by Shintaro Tsuji decided to put cute images on their stationary. At first the characters were outsourced, but because they had to pay a royalty they decided to create designs in house instead. From their own research, they discovered the most popular animal character was a dog, then a white cat and next a bear. Since Snoopy already existed, they opted for a white cat design.
The “Birth” of Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty was created on November 1st, 1974 by Ikuko Shimizu. The first product released with her image was a small clear vinyl coin purse that retailed for 240 yen in 1975.
Originally Hello Kitty was nameless. Then, she was going to be called “White Kitty” after one of Alice’s cats in Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking Glass. This morphed into Kitty White, but due to a mistranslation she became better known as Hello Kitty.
When Hello Kitty was invented, British culture was the craze in Japan. As a result, Hello Kitty was made to live in suburban London with her twin sister Mimmy and parents George and Mary White. She also has a pet cat named Charmmy and a hamster named Sugar.
Her hobbies include traveling, music, reading, making new friends and collecting lots of cute items. She especially loves her mama’s apple pie. If you remember smurfs who were 3 apples high, it may bring a smile to your face to know Hello Kitty weighs 3 apples.
Hello Kitty is kept perpetually young although she has an on-off boyfriend Dear Daniel, a childhood friend, who had to move with his photographer father to Africa. However, after a stint in New York, Daniel returned to England and back to Hello Kitty.
Along with other popular Sanrio characters like the Little Twin Stars, My Melody and Tuxedo Sam, Hello Kitty was a popular character to pre-teen girls in the early 80s. Many girls had pencil boxes, stationary, diaries, erasers and more printed with the adorable characters. Then, in the mid-nineties Hello Kitty had a resurgence in sales and was marketed to both young girls and girls in their twenties and older teens. For older girls, it was a throwback to their youth. Famous women like Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Lisa Loeb also showed their adoration for the cute kitty which further fueled Hello Kitty’s popularity.
Amazingly Hello Kitty has maintained her dominance over more than 450 characters created by Sanrio. She accounts for half of Sanrio’s $1 billion in revenues. Hello Kitty adorns 50,000 products in over 60 countries. Thanks to many licensing deals, she can be found on kitchen appliances, car accessories, diamond jewelry and more! There are also several videos including a 3D animation released last year called The Adventures of Hello Kitty & Friends.
Hello Kitty is also a star attraction at Sanrio’s indoor theme park Puroland which currently welcomes about 1.5 million visitors a year and outdoor theme park Harmonyland.
Today, Hello Kitty remains one of Japan’s most popular brands. Outside of Japan, her sales rose 3.2% last year. Each year, hundreds of new products are introduced and hundreds are taken away to keep fans excited about more kawaii (cute) items to add to their collection.
|Shintaro Tsuji is truly inspired to spread happiness to people. Looking at his early years, you can see how this led him to create a company based on gift-giving and fostering friendship.
Courtesy of CNN.com
Shintaro Tsuji was born in 1928. As a kindergarten student attending a school named after Canadian missionary Martha J. Cartmell, he learned the value of giving. The students of the school, which included children of well-off foreigners, were encouraged to give food and clothes to local beggars. The look of happiness on their faces was an image he wouldn’t forget.
Mr. Tsuji was also influenced by the custom of celebrating birthdays with parties and presents at the school. This was a surprise to him as it was not customary to commemorate birthdays in this way in Japan.
Sadly, at age 13, Mr. Tsuji’s mother passed away and he was sent to live with his aunt. He remembers this time in his life as being lonely.
After World War II, Mr. Tsuji who had studied chemistry sold soaps and condiments. Then, he went on to work for the government until he realized he didn’t like the bureaucracy and left. With his severance pay, he founded a company in 1960 which would later become Sanrio. It wasn’t until 1974 that Hello Kitty along with several other original characters would be introduced.
Mr. Tsuji is inspired by the belief that the most important thing in life is to have people around you that you can open your heart to and talk about anything. Gift giving is one way to show your appreciation to people who you care about whether it’s because they’re sick or have done something nice for you or for no reason. Why something cute? An expensive gift is too formal, a humorous gift might be taken as making fun of the person and something with skulls or other such images just doesn’t seem friendly.
But, something cute just makes your heart feel good.
Japan’s King of Cute
Shintaro Tsuji, CEO, Sanrio