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Starting with Hello Kitty’s first appearance on a vinyl coin purse in 1974, Japan’s favorite cartoon cat has been popping up all over the place! Her trademark image graces a wide range of items, from apparel to accessories and a vast array of tools and trinkets, not to mention toys and sometimes food. Sometimes she appears as a fashion-forward feline, or a cutesy maid, maybe an accomplished office worker, or even an Eva pilot!

We now understand that she works so hard to pay off her company’s debt, but that still begs the question of why the cat-woman can’t build a career in a single line of work. If I jumped ship and found new jobs as fast and frequently as Hello Kitty, I could never gain the trust of any future employers, so what is it about Hello Kitty’s methods that rakes in the moolah?

The life spans of most characters that are designed solely for marketing purposes are relatively short, but sometimes a character comes along that can last decades. Characters such as Barbie and Hello Kitty have worked out ways to stay relevant to fans and customers across multiple generations and in countries all around the globe. The secret is flexibility.

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Yuuko Yamaguchi, from Sanrio’s creative team, has worked as Hello Kitty’s designer since 1980. When she was first assigned the task of designing for this fashionable feline, she was just coming out of a rut and had no idea what approach to take. According to Ms. Yamaguchi, “Kitty-chan is a character that has to appeal to everyone, so her profile is something that everyone should be able to relate to.” In the end, it’s not Yamaguchi who dreams up new directions for the character’s overall image but customers’ opinions that inspire new Hello Kitty designs. “The fans are the ones who know Hello Kitty best,” she says.

Hello Kitty does not have a personal profile that was every formally decided. Rather, her character grows and expands with every new design. She doesn’t even have one set body shape or outfit. She changes according to the season’s fads and fashion trends. When Japan was experiencing a big pet craze, Hello Kitty was given her own pet cat. When teddy bears found a sudden boost in popularity, the Hello Kitty Teddy Bear set was created and became their number-one seller. Hello Kitty’s liberal design and fashion fad awareness make it easy for fans to form a deep connection with her, thus keeping the character in vogue.

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We can’t wait to see what line of work and form of dress that Hello Kitty takes on next!

Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)
Images: Aitia Apps, Atosa, PlaJapan