In response to "Hail to the Kitty" from The Escapist Forum: I'm not particularly feminine (I don't think, anyway) but I rather like browsing Hello Kitty stores. My DS Lite is pink. My camera is pink. And when my boyfriend bought me a 360 controller and it was pink, well, I was giddy with delight.
It could be social conditioning that pink = happy, feminine. Maybe I'm trying to capture with color what I don't think I already have. Same thing with Hello Kitty, perhaps?
While a rather interesting read, you still haven't answered the big question yet; why?
I didn't provide a sort of big wrap-up answer to the question of why Hello Kitty became the anthropological cultural icon that it did - mainly because I think I felt it would be arrogant to do so, and if I really knew, I'd have a very different job than I do and would probably would be making a lot more money.
In answer to your question, though, I think it's a little bit of everything, and I think the progression of the article does go through that. Tsuji as a businessman did have a very accurate bead and perception of what was going to be successful in Japan when it did. He also, probably entirely accidentally, timed his local perception *just right* so that when Japanese culture became attractive to the west (as globally assimilated previously isolated lands tend to do - which might project that Arabic culture will be the next big rage in about 10 years) Hello Kitty rode that japanophile wave straight up. (Which explains why not Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura - they came too late, when Hello Kitty had already filled the exclusivity niche.)
But he also hit on some universals. By not limiting Hello Kitty to one personality, by reinventing her and making a thousand variations on her, he made her an icon of personal expression. By marketing to children he created a purity of brand emotion that made her universally desirable as an icon of simplicity and childhood. And there is always a lot of money in marketing to children in general, because they're very vulnerable to consumerism when they're in that pre-cognitive developmental state of just figuring out how to identify and match something they see on television or with their peers and then act upon by being the agent of its acquisition (by nagging parents or relatives).
I think if you combine all of those things you can see why Hello Kitty went super-big - but it's not the kind of thing that can be reverse engineered for another product exactly. There is certainly a lot of luck involved, a lot of factors that lined up that you couldn't reasonably predict.
- Erin Hoffman