Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

The Undeniable Impact of Hello Kitty On Our Lives

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

On the day, hour, and second that this article may be published, Sanrio Entertainment company will be expected to continue its daily trend of $1.6M in revenue. This is about 27 times greater than the average annual American wage of  $59,428. From this statement alone, one can begin to understand just how influential this Japanese powerhouse has become. And if that doesn’t put it into perspective for you, then the creation of one very special character will.

Sanrio’s origins can be traced back to the 1960s. This project began as a local entertainment company that focused on quaint, boutique-style products such as small gifts and greeting cards. At this point, Sanrio had not really made much of a name for itself. In fact, it was not until the 1970s that it began to pick up the pace. 1974 marks the year that the company began its initial, wide-scale integration into America with the production of films in Los Angeles under the name, “Sanrio Film Corporation of America.” In that same year, Sanrio reached another milestone; it created the star herself, Hello Kitty. 

Adorned in a simple red bow, yellow shirt, and blue overalls, Hello Kitty was undeniably cute, but not yet a celebrity. It was not until 1976 that Sanrio pulled the biggest game changer in the marketing world: licensing. The CNN article, “How Hello Kitty Built a Massive Business Empire,” puts it this way: “Licensing allows Sanrio to take on far less risk, especially when getting into new businesses. But the company can still control Hello Kitty’s image — from the artistic design to the messaging around the product or use — while raking in royalties.” Put in these terms, it is evident that Hello Kitty’s stardom began with the legal process of turning her into intellectual property. 

And yet, Hello Kitty goes beyond this. With the licensing came the incredible achievement of catapulting Hello Kitty’s influence around the world, especially in countries like the United States. But in America, there was more to it than just that. Hello Kitty’s influence culminated into a force that transcended ‘just being a character.’ In many ways, this cutie’s image became a staple in the lifestyle of millions of Americans.   

As expected with any licensed character, especially those as bright and visually appealing as Hello Kitty, these become swept up in the many behaviors of consumers. An article from the University of Southern California explains, “Different psychological factors, such as identity, communication tendencies and cultural background, coalesce to build an individual’s consumer behavioral profile.” In other words, through advertisements, marketing strategies, cultural background, and so on, consumers develop a purchasing identity for themselves. In relation to Hello Kitty, this allows her image to continue to be shared, especially regarding purchases. This is a grand testament to Sanrio’s sales which continuously reach around $576.3M every year. But strict business and marketing tactics aside, it is important to highlight that Hello Kitty is shared not only as a commodity but also as a timeless, cultural icon. Consumers have seemingly taken Hello Kitty – as well as other memorable Sanrio characters – into their own hands and transformed them into many lovely things for many lovely years.  From Hello Kitty’s fame there have emerged countless stories, fanfiction, conspiracies, artworks, makeup products, fashion styles, stationery supplies, stuffed animals, toys, collectibles, core aesthetics, and internet posts that each depict Hello Kitty in a unique way – each and every time. For some, Hello Kitty’s mouthless face is an eerie depiction of a satanic pact (yes, there is a conspiracy out there about this). For others, she is simply a successful Japanese product. For others, she is an eternal symbol of childhood, a limitless and immortal doll, setting aside a space for herself in the hearts of children and adults alike. 

Regardless of what Hello Kitty officially stands for, or what her origins may be, or what capitalistic plays were used to raise her to stardom, the truth still stands that everyone can interpret and transform her in any way, shape, or form they would like. In this way, Hello Kitty does not belong to any one person or company. Everyone has the right to enjoy her positively radiant influence. And as Hello Kitty would say, “You can never have too many friends!” 

Oh, writing! A passion of mine since a young age, this indulgence has allowed me to express myself in ways that words simply... can! Speaking of words, I am an English major and freshman pursuing Pre-Law at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus. I have worked as a Social Media manager, Secretary, Graphic Designer, Content Creator, President, and a Volunteer for a number of clubs, among other things. I was an avid academic competitor, writing and answering questions for Creative Writing, Poetry, and Language Arts events. I won 2nd place for Poetry States, 1st place Champion for Language Arts States, and managed to place while competing in Nationals. My plans for the future include expanding my writing expertise, prompting you to think, and finding inspiration in my Latin American roots!