Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hello Kitty proves action speaks louder than words

Hello Kitty proves action speaks louder than words
Hello Kitty does not have a mouth. She speaks with her heart.

Worldwide novelty ‘Hello Kitty’ had Singaporeans queuing up and tussling over a limited edition toy kitten dressed in skeleton outfit from a German fairy tale known as ‘The Singing Bones’. McDonald’s Singapore sold the toy, as the last in a series of six, which began early June. The last frenzy was Hello Kitty dressed in wedding attire in 2000.

Despite having stocked up on 40% more on collectible Hello Kitty toys this year and limiting each customer to only 4 toys each, McDonald’s claim that the response for the Fairy Tale series had been overwhelming.
The fast-food chain announced last Thursday that the iconic toy had been sold out, much to the disappointment and frustration of many enthusiastic collectors who braved the haze in an attempt to get their hands on the plush toy.

Singapore wasn't the only country bogged by this phenomenon. Malaysia at one point was hit by the Hello Kitty fever in the 90’s. People argued over toys, jumped queues and made a commotion when the collectible went out of stock. Why do people react in such a way? Admittedly, these toys fetch a high resale value.

The toys were sold at S$4.60 (US$3.63) each but resellers are putting out bids at eBay, some starting from as high as US$79.90. ‘Stomp’ Singapore, an online urban lifestyle website reported last week that the winning bid was S$126,000 (US$99,471) for a set of the Fairy Tale series which includes the skeleton outfit kitty.

McDonald’s Singapore in its Facebook page declared disapproval of resellers profiting from the highly sought after collector’s item but is unable to do much beyond removing adverts from their page and admonishing their staff to misappropriation.

Although crazed fans sought out these memorabilia not unlike hysteria, some people are not even aware of it and termed it as an “outlandishly childish” display.

Hello from Japan

7-11 convenient stores nationwide in Malaysia are currently having a Hello Kitty promotion to collect 20 different trinkets and a chance to win entry tickets into the Hello Kitty Town in Johor. The promotion ends on 8 September 2013. Selected outlets also carry Hello Kitty bracelets priced at RM15.90 (US$5).

Presently there are three Hello Kitty theme parks in the world – Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo; Harmonyland in Kyushu; and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town, within the Puteri Harbour Theme Park in Johor, Malaysia. Sanrio Hello Kitty Town is the only character theme park located outside of Japan. Puteri Harbour Theme Park houses Legoland as well.

In Taiwan, there is a Hello Kitty themed restaurant and a maternity hospital too.

The Hello Kitty trademark also expanded into the wine market in 2009 to engage adult fans. Other than that, Hello Kitty can also be found in TV shows, video games and music.

Hello Kitty corporate partners include EVA Airways, Taiwan. In October 2005, EVA air launched a commercial passenger plane dubbed Hello Kitty Jet in an attempt to boost the declining tourism industry in the country. While the original Hello Kitty Jet retired in 2009, EVA reintroduced three Hello Kitty jets in 2011 to mark the carrier’s 20th anniversary. In 2012, two more A330 Hello Kitty jets were added to ply the skies, dubbed ‘Hello Kitty Speed Puff’ and ‘Hello Kitty Happy Music’.

Hello Kitty products are sold worldwide through franchise stores and partner businesses. Besides genuine and licensed Sanrio products, Hello Kitty and friends have been spotted on many unofficial items, acknowledging that imitation is indeed the best form of flattery.

Sales of Hello Kitty merchandise account for more than half of its total turnover of about US$1 billion. Sanrio is currently listed in Japan’s Nikkei and was last traded at US$48.05 during closing on June 29.

The Hello Kitty Story

Hello Kitty by Sanrio was created by Japanese designer, Yuko Shimizo in 1974 and was brought over to the USA in 1976. The moon-faced white kitty with a pink bow first made her first appearance on a vinyl purse and was targeted at pre-teen girls. Sanrio provided Hello Kitty with a British identity together with a birthdate, November 1, an identical twin sister named Mimmy, and a hobby of baking cookies.  In 2008, Hello Kitty was appointed as Japan’s tourism ambassador to Hong Kong, China and South Korea. The adorable cat is also, since 1983, the United States children’s ambassador for Unicef.

According to Sanrio, the Hello Kitty trademark adorns 50,000 different products, ranging from fashion like bags, accessories, and clothing to stationaries for school and office; and decorative and electronic items for home and kitchen. It caters to audiences for mass market items to rare collectibles.

Hello Kitty was created based on an inspiration from Lewis Carrol’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’. In a scene at the beginning of the book, main character Alice played with a kitten named Kitty. Though simplistic looking, the kawaii Japanese pop-culture is appealing and has certainly made its mark in the world. Even without a mouth, Hello Kitty speaks volume.

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