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Monday, May 26, 2014

Have A Drink With Hello Kitty

You know who Hello Kitty is, right?

But what is she?

Yes, yes, she's a mouthless, white pussycat with an adorable demeanor and a red bow.

But what IS Hello Kitty?

If we were to look inside Hello Kitty, we might find a lot of guts. Actually, you wouldn't, because… 

… she is a marketing phenomenon, that's what she is.

Created by Sanrio, a Japanese branding company that seems to specialize in all things kawaii (cute with a hint of barfing), Hello Kitty is perhaps their most famous creation.

They do own the rights to Peanuts (Good grief, you know… Snoopy & Charlie Brown) in Japan. They also own the rights to Mr. Men in Japan… and admittedly, I had to find out what that meant - and then it was (slap to the forehead) obvious. It's a UK series of books by Roger Hargreaves (and now his son Adam), that includes such cute characters as Mr. Tickle and Little Miss Chatterbox (see below).

Other characters that Sanrio has created include Badtz-Maru (a cute spikey-haired penguin),

Chococat (a cute black cat with no mouth)

and My Melody (a cute white bunny rabbit who has a mouth).
Anyhow, Hello Kitty equals 'hello money' to companies that license her to hawk their products.

Originally created to act as a shill to sell products to pre-adolescent females, Sanrio has since broadened her range, which has made Hello Kitty with some $5-billion a year.

Yes… a year.

So… who created Hello Kitty?

A Japanese woman names Shimizu Yuko (清水 侑子) did.  Born on November 1, 1946 in Chiba-ken (Chiba Prefecture), she went to Musashino Art University… and created Hello Kitty at Sanrio in 1974. Yes... that cat is 40 years old and looks marvelous.

She (Shimizu) retired in 1976, and while I am sure she saw how popular her character was when working, she probably kicks herself daily (if she doesn't still get a percentage point) from the $5-billion of yearly monies…

Who's kidding whom… when properties get valuable, companies get pissy. DC Comics and Marvel did that to their creators… and I'm sure Sanrio did that to Shimizu… being a woman probably didn't help, BUT, perhaps I am wrong and Sanrio continues to have an agreement with Japan's number one marketing tool creator.

Why call the cat Hello Kitty, or What's In A Name?

Whenever one walks into a Chinese or Japanese shop or restaurant or any sort of establishment, actually, you may have noticed a statuette of a cat (sometimes white, black or red) sitting, with one paw raised in the air.

This is the beckoning cat, and is used by shopkeepers to beckon customers into the shop…  Known as maneki-neko (招き猫, literally "beckoning cat), it is a Japanese good-luck charm that one hopes will bring good luck… or customers into the shop.

Maneki-neko wants your money.

The cats come in two varieties - left paw waving and right paw waving... and there's a lot of people making up crap saying which one is ideal.

For example, a common belief is that the left paw raised brings in customers, while a right paw brings good luck and wealth, although some believe the opposite, or that one paw is for luck and the other for wealth. Another interpretation says that a raised left paw attracts money, while a raised right paw protects it. Still others say that a left paw raised is best for drinking establishments, the right paw for other stores (those who hold their liquor well are called "left-handed" (hidari-kiki) in Japanese). Yet another interpretation is that right is for home and left for business.

It is commonly believed the higher the raised paw, the greater the luck. Consequently, over the years maneki-neko's paw has tended to appear ever higher. Another common belief is that the higher the paw, the greater the distance good fortune will come from.

Like I said... since it's made up, you can have it believe whatever you want it to be.

So... why does the cat wave anyhow? 

In Japan, the gesture Japanese people make to tell people to come here is this hand-raised fingers coming down towards the palm gesture...

Welcome to my shop... says the kitty cat waving hello... So... that explains the name... but not why it's in English, when it was created for a Japanese market... so all I can assume is that the Japanese - even back in the mid-1970s - though English was cool.

I'd like a bit of pram - or why Hello Kitty is white

It's certainly NOT a racist thing.

The white color of the maneki-neko is the classic color variation - in Japan, white means purity, and has long been one of those virtues the Japanese say they respect, for some reason, even if they don't always follow the path towards said virtue (we could have a discussion for days about that statement!).

Anyhow… Hello Kitty was created as a white cat… a kind of backwards marketing tool to be similar in design as the white beckoning cat but to also act as a way to bring good fortune to shopkeepers.

Pretty effing obvious when you see that connection, eh?

I must admit that it really is a bit of brilliant branding by Shimizu and Sanrio.

I do think it's interesting that they only focused initially on a young female audience, but what the heck, right. Little girls like cute.

The thing is… these little girls grew up, but they still liked cute, and each successive generation has continued that tradition.

And now, it's not just the Japanese who enjoy Hello Kitty… it's men and women, boys and girls in countries all over the world.

Some of the items that Hello Kitty has sold include: credit cards (Visa and Mastercard), bank books et al (Bank of America); jewelry (Simmons Jewelry Co.); candies, sweets, restaurants (some just for Sanrio's own Hello Kitty brand); video games (17 of them, I think) and animated television series (five and counting) and manga (comic books); music albums; a Hello Kitty Fender Stratocaster guitar (since 2006 and counting); and even some Hello Kiity jet planes (six, with demand asking for more).

I have a Hello Kitty ruler, some crappy kiddie fake cigarette candy sticks, and a LEGO-like building block set. The first was given to me in Japan by a female Japanese junior high school student I taught, an the rest is me swamped by the marketing might that is this beloved cat.

Which brings me to 2014. As mentioned, though initially marketed for pre-pubescent Japanese girls, Hello Kitty has crossed the age and gender gap to pubescence.

Despite lacking a mouth, Hello Kitty swears thish ish the best frickin' wine she's every effing tasted!
Hell… there's now Hello Kitty wine, and Hello Kitty alcoholic beverages that I assume is marketed towards women of legal drinking age.

I would assume in the case of the wine, that these women Hello Kitty wine imbibers are somewhat immature, regardless of their age.

Sommelier (wine steward): "Would madame care to see the wine list? We have a wonderful 1996 Shiraz from Australia that is a dense bouquet with layers of earth, chocolate, berry and oak where you can taste a sweet blackberry offset exquisitely by sweet chocolate, rounded off quite sublimely with sweet tannins and an obvious vanilla American oak component."

Japanese Woman: "Tee-Hee (covering mouth and nodding). Sumimasen, do you have Hello Kitty wine?"

Sommelier: "(Audible sigh) (French accent appears when depressed) Oui, madame. Would you care for za Hello Kitty Sweet Pink Sparkling Wine, za Hello Kitty Sparkling Rose Wine, za Hello Kitty Red Wine, or zee Hello Kitty Chardonnay Wine?"

Japanese Woman: "Which one goes with a Biggu Maco (Big Mac)?"

Sommelier: (Biting lower lip) All of zem, madame, but I might suggest zat zee Hello Kitty Red Wine is perhaps ze best choice."

Japanese woman: "Sugoi! (squealing) I'll take a bottle of it!"

Sommelier: "Oui madam. I shall be back wiz your order as well as a bib, in a moment."

Now obviously, it's not that bad, I hope.

These Hello Kitty wines are produced and distributed by the Italian Torti "Tenimenti Castelrotto" family, and retail anywhere between US $15-$29 a bottle depending on what color wine you want. I know… how gauche.

The most expensive wine I've ever had was maybe $10 and my palette couldn't tell why. Perhaps for the refined palette, the more expensive and therefore hopefully better quality wines are better appreciated… but come on… please tell me that people are only buying these wines for the cache appeal of being a Hello Kitty fan and not because they really dig the fermented grape juice.
Also new with the alcohol are the beers… which are hipper than the wines because they come in pop-top cans and not corked glass wine bottles from an Italian vineyard who are obviously whores to the almighty lira or whatever the fug they use for money these days.

Anyhow… I just wanted to show you these Hello Kitty alcohol fruit-flavored beer drinks…. that is being produced by the Long Chuan Beer Company, Taiwan's second-largest beer producer, for the Taiwan market only.

While some might question if it's a beer thanks to a mere 2.5% alcohol content, note that Shandy beers are often only 2.5% alcohol, and are also beer mixed with a fruity flavor.

Hey! This is a Hello Kitty Shandy beer!

Now.. I've had a few shandy beers back in the mid-1980s… very refreshing, but even after 12 of 'em there was no way I was going to get drunk enough to ask a girl to dance at a club… also perhaps because I was drinking a wimpy alcohol-content beer rather than a real drink.

Available in four refreshing pre-pubescent flavors: Passion Fruit, Lemon, Banana, and Peach.

Check out the drink cans. Okay… they got the colors correct for Banana and Lemon… No.. waitaminute!

Aren't Lemon's YELLOW? Why is the fruit's skin Green like a rime, I mean lime??!!

Sure you need to differentiate between the Lemon and Banana flavors considering both are usually yellow fruit…

So what about Passion Fruit and Peach?

Well… a peach is usually a pale orange color and if we were to look at a passion fruit, it seems like it's a red color, but the inside is actually a yellowy orange.

So… here, this company has used the correct pale orange color for its Passion Fruit, but then uses pink to describe its Peach drink.

I love it… it's so fugged up!

They correctly figured that everyone would screw up the whole lemon-lime color thing… and by the time they realized the mistake their giddy female customer base would be too drunk to care. 

Anyhow… with Japanese kids everywhere - hell kids everywhere loving Hello Kitty… isn't creating a drink - an adult alcoholic drink - with Hello Kitty featured on it, just sort of inviting disaster?

Drunk eight-year-olds falling into rice paddies on the way to wherever it is eight-year-old kids go to by themselves in Japan.

Though perhaps the weak alcohol content might not create enough buzz for an eight-year-old who is used to the sugary highs of sweets et al.

And why IS Hello Kitty sitting IN the Passion Fruit on the can's graphic image?

Is it just me, but does Hello Kitty actually look 'stunned' that she is being asked to sell alcoholic drinks with such confusing packaging?

Lastly… to further confuse the alcoholic, each of these four Hello Kitty beers are the same color… that classic weak piss yellow watery beer color that implies you really need to drink more water or your kidneys are going to shut down.
Wait - it gets even MORE interesting... that photo of the two Hello Kitty beverages at the very top of this blog? That's from Japan... I think... but those two show the alcohol content to be only 2.3%!!!

As well... along with different graphics, the former Lemon drink is now obviously showing it to have BOTH lemon and lime fruits in it... and it even translates into LEMON-LIME!!!

The other drink at the very top - the one on the right... that IS Passion Fruit flavor... and it shows a less stunned drunk Hello Kitty and a more 'having-fun-'cause-I'm-drunk' Hello Kitty.  

Man... I'm confused... it's like someone put something in my watery beer.

Ugh… it's all so much kitty porn.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Some photos borrowed from

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