Hello Kitty at 50

License Global speaks with Arnaud Simon, licensing director, Sanrio, ahead of France Licensing Day about how the company is celebrating Hello Kitty’s 50th anniversary this year.

Ian Hart, Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA

April 23, 2024

7 Min Read
Hello Kitty installation in the CUTE exhibition at Somerset House, David Parry, Somerset House
Hello Kitty installation in the CUTE exhibition at Somerset HouseDavid Parry, Somerset House

License Global: The Hello Kitty brand, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, continues to go from strength to strength. What are the key elements of the IP that make it appeal so much to the consumer and help it achieve such longevity?

Arnaud Simon: There are many factors that determine the longevity of the Hello Kitty brand. Sanrio opened to co-branding in the early 2000s, long before this became a trend such as nowadays. It’s always been part of our positioning strategy, as we understood quite soon that partnering with brands of global relevance could lead to innovative projects able to draw media attention, increasing the exposure and the value of the products. Not many characters can boast such a diverse and rich portfolio of collaborations, which includes among the others, Barbour Balenciaga, Chloé and GDCS. This helped Hello Kitty to become one of the most loved and known pop icons across all generations and in the whole world.

Moreover, we are seeing Gen X and millennial parents pass their love for Hello Kitty to their children, paving the way for new generations of fans and allowing us to reach consumers from their early age until they become teenagers or young adults, which is our core target. 

Chloé x My Melody bags

What plans and collaborations do you have in place to mark the anniversary?

Related:The France Licensing Landscape

We have a lot coming up: digital collaborations, exhibitions and, of course, a wide range of partnerships with brands from several industries. Our celebrations started in November 2023, when we launched the first campaigns part of our anniversary, such as our AR app, which allows users to create and share Hello Kitty-themed videos, or the virtual café in Roblox. Since January, Hello Kitty has been part of the British exhibit Cute at London’s Somerset House. The venue hosts a space dedicated to her, with a plushie area, a collection of merchandise and a themed disco, with a giant mirror ball. The event sold 2,000 tickets just on the first Saturday, which is another proof of the power and affection that connects our character to people from all over the world.

France is one of the markets where we are planning several activations as part of the celebration; one that I can mention is the collaboration with Leblon Delienne and their artist Jo Di Bona (the Pop Graffiti inventor). Hello Kitty’s 50th anniversary is a great opportunity to promote the brand in France and at the same time it offers to French brands the chance to reach new targets and present themselves in a fresh and innovative way. This is exactly what’s going to happen with Monnaie de Paris (created in 864), which is bringing to our country a commemorative coin of Hello Kitty to celebrate her anniversary. We are also about to launch a new promotion with Quick, where we will be joining forces with TV Tokyo and French agent, Mediatoon, for an IP x IP collaboration with Naruto customizing the kids’ menu.

Related:France Licensing Day 2024 Opens for Registration

Hello Kitty and Friends Joue retail activation

What activations have you used in the past to make sure the brand stands out at retail?
Sanrio’s mission is to foster social communication and when a company has such a goal, it’s easy to turn every moment into a social gathering or a party. Hello Kitty’s message of friendship, kindness and inclusivity is easy to convey and to understand. We are always ready to create a WOW effect customizing window shops, corners or even themed POP can help create that joyful atmosphere that comes with our characters.

This is what we did with JouéClub around Christmas time, where we turned the windows of Paris Village JouéClub Store into a Christmas village allowing customers to dive into the winter holiday’s atmosphere.

Also, Hello Kitty comes with her unique, kawaii- and Japan-inspired style that is able to add her own spin to every product, making it impossible to miss. For instance, our long-lasting partnership with adidas allowed our character to be featured on the iconic sneakers, bringing her values of friendship and inclusivity to a must-have for children and infants.
Are there any key collaborations that are particular highlights for you, or that you are most proud of?

Related:There’s No Party Like a Sanrio Party

We are happy with the strong relationships with our partners, who come from all kinds of industries: toys, fashion, food and even entertainment as well. In France we launched several campaigns that brought outstanding results in terms of sales.

It is worth mentioning our collaboration with Polyflame, whose products (band aids, sanitizing gel, sprays and lip balms) became extremely popular and sales were exciting not only at Miniso’s shops but also at pharmacies. Merchandise performed good as well, from Pop Mart’s mini figures to Rhinoshield’s and CG Mobile’s smartphone cases and accessories.

On an international level, I’d like to mention once again, adidas: in 2023 we launched our second batch of footwear themed around inclusivity. We are also starting to increase our efforts in the entertainment industry and the first results are quite promising; Gudetama, our TV show available for streaming on Netflix, was nominated for Best Kids’ Live Action at the 51st international Emmy Awards.

Finally, we can’t forget about Monsieur Madame’s brands, which hold the highest market share in illustrated books in France. In October, we partnered with Winning Moves to launch the first Monopoly featuring these beloved characters. We are really investing in every single trend, from street art festival (Color’s festival) to music (Hellfest), municipalities (Citizenship leaflet) to high-end retail (Merci).

Monsieur Madame Monopoly

How would you describe the brand licensing landscape in France currently?
Licensing is now enjoying a strong revival in France, because it’s becoming a way to further enhance a brand’s value. Children’s brands are still leading, but the adult market is enjoying something of a boom as well. We are seeing also an increase of interest in the Japanese culture. Anime, manga and video games are gaining conspicuous market shares.

In this scenario, Sanrio’s wide portfolio of characters finds a natural environment to live in: they are the embodiment of these values and, as such, they become relevant and relatable for consumers of any age. Traditional business models are still there, but new opportunities are rising up, from the VoD to online retainers, from promotion on social media only (like we did for Solary x Gudetama) to high-end collaboration. Tik Tok and Instagram are popular tools for engagement, while Web3, the metaverse and NFTs are driving what is increasingly known as ‘phygital’ products, leveraging on the nostalgia and based on iconic childhood characters.

This phenomenon is being supported by fashion collaborations and the still growing kidult category: items for adults inspired by children’s products. Supporting such trends can increase the power of social networks leading also to new communication strategies around content creators and YouTubers.

Kuromi bag, Bershka

Looking forward, what can we expect from the various Sanrio IP in 2024 and beyond?

2024 is going to be an exciting year for us. It marks Hello Kitty’s 50th anniversary, so a big part of our efforts will entail the celebrations. We are planning to invest also in our most promising characters. For instance, you can expect more of Kuromi; this character’s popularity is skyrocketing, and we intend to offer to our community a huge variety of touchpoints with her; be it online or in retail stores for stationery, apparel or merchandise in general, you’ll see her a lot moving forward. In 2025 she will celebrate her 20th anniversary, so she’ll be under the spotlight for a long time. We are also working on the Hello Kitty movie, this will be another huge milestone for us.

As far as Monsieur Madame is concerned, there’s a lot coming up. A few things will have to wait a little longer before we can disclose the details, but new books and campaigns will continue to keep this rich and long-lasting brand deeply rooted to our French heritage and tradition.

2024 will see the release of new books from the “Bien grandir” series, which allows kids to learn and discover their emotions with Monsieur Madame’s characters. Also, we will publish new installments from “Les Monsieur Madame visitent la France,” the series of books that pays homage to France and its regions. On top of this, we’ll also have a new collaboration with the brand, Petit Bateau, which this spring is launching a collection featuring these characters on apparel for kids and infants.

Sanrio is exhibiting at France Licensing Day and Licensing International Awards 2024, which returns to Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris in Paris, France, on June 27. Registration is now open.

About the Author(s)

Ian Hart

Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global

Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.

Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!

He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.

Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry Article
Join 62,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like