Hello Kitty and the spread of Nippon Culture.
Answers to Questions:
1. Explain the appeal of characters like Hello Kitty to younger consumers in both Asia and the western economies, taking note of cultural and group influences.
Hello Kitty and her colleagues are ‘soft, round, toothless, clawless and mute’. As such, they are helpless, inspiring a certain level of protectiveness and affection in youngsters who are replicating the protection and affection given by their parents. The characters are non-threatening, as opposed to battling Pokemon and kickboxing Power Puff Girls, again reinforcing the need to protect them. The characters have no discernible cultural features [although it is difficult to imagine an Asian or African kitten!] meaning that they can cross country and cultural boundaries with limited cultural baggage [other than the ‘Made in Japan’ tag]. Aspects of ‘kawaii’ culture can be seen in youth in other countries - trends, once picked up by significant reference group members, spread quite quickly, leading to high levels of market penetration.
2. Explain why characters like Hello Kitty appeal to a broader audience in Asia? Do you think that Hello Kitty will be able to generate the same level of broad appeal in western countries?
In Asia, the appeal of Hello Kitty is not limited to younger consumers, as evidenced by the range of products available [think Jeeps and condoms!]. Some authors have suggested that this phenomenon can be explained by the stress caused by Asia’s rapid economic growth, closely followed by the Asian financial crisis and recession as well as political uncertainty in parts of the region. Psychologists suggest that one way individuals deal with stress is to retreat as much as they can to their childhood, for most a happy, protected, relatively non threatening time. According to one marketing expert, ‘when the economy goes into recession, people start going into depression.... and reach for...