Randall Hull, The Br@nd Ranch®

Last month, Siouxsie Law wrote an article about HELLO KITTY owner Sanrio suing an Oklahoma child beauty pageant for use of their trademark and brand elements. It makes one wonder why Sanrio has not taken action against the use of their brand image on firearms, particularly after the recent tragedy in Colorado and the accused’s use of an AR-15 assault rifle.

It may seem a reach to some, but as a brand manager I would not want a child’s toy trademark associated with assault weapons, even if a parody. The possible negative impacts to the brand are clearly foreseeable.

Yes, there are distinct benefits of having your fans assist with brand proliferation, but the what, where and when should be of concern for every brand manager — especially with this type of brand.

Not being a hunter or gun owner, nor having young children for that matter, some could say I don’t see the “harmless humor” in this. But I would argue just how “harmless” the association of a children’s character with “adult” weapons might be.

Granted, this isn’t the only appearance of HELLO KITTY on weapons or the brand knowingly applied to rather odd products; such as a Valentine’s Day “Special Parfait” at Hooters Tokyo or KISS HELLO KITTY toilet paper. There is certainly a roll of bad jokes in the latter and one would wonder how this benefits either brand.

Further, there is the “approved” HELLO KITTY x Chun-Li plush replete with Street Fighter Alpha outfit. Cute bad kitty, perhaps, but how far does “fantasy fighting” extend before harsh reality crashes into harmless fun? Seriously, that is what managers of children’s’ brands need to consider.

Not to digress, but what is next in this vein of collaboration? Ronald McDonald and Insane Clown Posse?

I fully understand co-branding opens new markets and helps brands reach new audiences. But, logic and caution would rule out certain collaborations and, as is the focus of this article, certain unauthorized associations, which can become a brand manager’s nightmare.

Realistically, no company can police everything, but still, vigilance for the messages being sent by unauthorized, and even authorized, use of trademarks and other brand elements is not to be summarily dismissed.

To this brand manager a “Full Metal Kitty” is a contradiction in terms and not a positive association for the HELLO KITTY brand.