Wednesday, July 9, 2008

As If We Need a Reason to Explain Hello Kitty's Awesome-ness

Why do some brands, like the Lacoste crocodile or Hello Kitty, take off so amazingly?
The answer to a brand's success is different every time. One thing many gurus ignore is how culture and business change—there is no such thing as a five-point plan for making a brand take off.

Consider Hello Kitty, which is an example I use in the book at some length. Some three decades ago, this mouthless, cute cat symbol was created by Sanrio. It turned into a megaseller, and while there are a number of theories as to why, the essence of my own theory is that there is no single answer. Hello Kitty benefited from "projectability," meaning that different consumers projected different ideas on this blank canvas. For some, it was little-girl cute, for others it was kitschy, for others it was nostalgic. And because Hello Kitty has no "official story," everyone is, in effect, right.

Now, Sanrio has created upwards of 400 other characters, and believe me, they would love to replicate the success of Hello Kitty. They have never come close. The reason is that there is no secret sauce that makes a brand/logo/symbol meaningful—it comes from consumers.


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