— Randall Hull, The Br@nd Ranch®
In August 2012 I wrote about Sanrio’s well-known brand, HELLO KITTY and its appearance on customized assault rifles, as an example of unfortunate brand association.
To paraphrase the late Ronald Reagan, “Here we go again.”
This September, I guess just in time for the fall drinking season, HELLO KITTY introduced a six-pack of tropical fruit flavored beer in China and Taiwan. And this is not Sanrio’s first “purrambulation” into adult beverages. HELLO KITTY branded wines were licensed in Asia, Europe, and the United States.
It is a true each culture has it’s own boundaries of acceptability and logical brand associations, and HELLO KITTY beer, as incongruous it may seem to American branding practices, is not the first instance of the bow-bedecked feline gracing products for adults.
For example, HELLO KITTY Sephora cosmetics, HELLO KITTY Hanky Panky intimate apparel — not for little girls, and the HELLO KITTY Smart Car Wrap. And, as I mentioned in the last blog, HELLO KITTY was a Valentine’s Day “Special Parfait” at Hooters Tokyo and even rolled KISS HELLO KITTY toilet paper.
According to an ABC News article, it is not unusual for adults in Asia to accept the “kawaii” kitty on products far from the children’s aisle. HELLO KITTY is approaching middle age — 40 years old in 2014 — so it appears Sanrio wishes to reach the customers that have grown up with the brand.
It seems a reasonable brand manager would not want a highly recognizable child-centric brand associated with an alcoholic beverage. I find this a ready-made situation for brand dissonance and a bit troubling for parents of youngsters.
If the strategy is to expand the brand to adults as well as maintain its preadolescent market, how do you compartmentalize the adult side so the iconic kitty isn’t encouraging under-aged drinking?
Brand channels are not that discrete and the strategy ignores the desire of children to emulate the acts of adults. Beside the fact that the tropical fruit flavors in colorful cans adorned with HELLO KITTY are more reminiscent of sodas than beer. “Look Daddy, the cute kitty can makes me happy — and dizzy, too!”
In brand proliferation the what, where and when should take precedence over omnipresence.
To this brand practitioner a HELLO KITTY brewski is too discordant and fraught with risks for a cuddly pop icon brand seeking to be venerable in its middle age.
Just what are they sipping over there at Sanrio?