What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Sanrio’? There are truly an endless amount of ways to answer this question! The plethora of cute characters might immediately spring to mind. Or, some of your favorite goods or merchandise featuring your most beloved mascots may take first place in your mind. Or maybe even a sweet bite of delicious Pompompurin shaped pancakes that you had at a themed cafe takes the gold! There are no wrong answers, but we feel that there are six distinct attributes in which Sanrio lends itself to be an essential ambassador of Japanese kawaii culture worldwide.
A Branding Powerhouse
The unique and personalizable attributes of Sanrio characters’ personalities, plus their instantly recognizable forms has pushed many globally popular and strong brands to team up with Sanrio and offer something collaborative and new to the masses. These run the spectrum from all types of cute appliances, fashion items, gadgets, and even luxury goods.
Let’s take a quick look. From clothing collaborations with globally known brands such as Uniqlo, H&M, and Lesportsac, for instance — to cosmetic sets featuring Sanrio colors and characters from brands like The Creme Shop, ColourPop, and Shiseido, to name just a few — all the way to tableware, drinkware, and kitchen appliances, this brand shows no shortage of imagination when it comes to unique and inventive ways to market its characters with established brands. And truthfully, who wouldn’t take a Cinnamoroll coffee mug over a plain ordinary one? The character option is much more charming!
One very large factor making Sanrio characters so easy to love amongst people from all over the world is that there are simply so many unique individual characters to meet! Not to mention, there’s a huge lineup of characters besides the well-known ones that have only appeared on limited stationery releases, for instance, but still remain part and parcel of the Sanrio canon. These include mundane picks like ‘Country Fresh Veggies’ or the weirdishly cute but likable character ‘Hangyodon’. Of these hundreds of characters that occupy the Sanrio-verse, each one is bound to have particular personality traits or a backstory, ensuring that there’s always something for everybody.
When it comes to personalities, there’s definitely a Sanrio character to fit every type! Whatever you’re looking for in a buddy you will surely find within the range of characters that this company has brought into the world. And we can say with confidence that the character Aggretsuko and her companions are quite the model group when it comes to having a wide spectrum of realistic and developed personalities. This well-rounded mix of dynamic individuals requires little time for audiences to get to know and understand them, and despite not being the most ‘traditionally’ kawaii brainchild of Sanrio, they are instantly lovable and wholly endearing right from the get-go.
Ever wondered why Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth? Or why certain characters seem to be loved by people of differing age ranges? One common reasoning goes that this happens because many of the characters tend to be voiceless most of the time and therefore you can more easily attach your own individual persona to it. This makes these characters that are lovable from the get-go seem even easier to understand once you’ve taken a fancy to one. As a result, it’s not hard to find commonality between yourself and a cute character when you feel like they could definitely have your back.
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Absolutely everything can get the kawaii treatment, even food! And why not? Mixing the usual with a dose of kawaii magic is always a recipe for fun! So just like what maple syrup is to Canada, what fish and chips is to Great Britain, or what burritos are to Mexico, kawaii-themed foods are the ultimate collaboration between two of the heaviest hitters in Japanese culture and are a fun, bright, colorful, and fascinating world to explore!
Let’s focus today on the exciting world of kawaii character themed foods! There are countless cute mascots that decorate all manner of goods in the Land of the Rising Sun. When it comes to food, although some of them are limited-time only, there’s bound to be a themed cafe or themed restaurant that collaborates with the most popular brands and characters like Kirby, Rilakkuma, Sailor Moon, and Pokémon to name just a few. But who could resist a visit to a Sanrio themed eatery? With a full roster of well-loved characters like Hello Kitty, Pompompurin, Cinnamoroll, Kuromi, and My Melody, there is plenty of variety and absolutely something for everyone, no question! So, grab your bento container and let’s do some exploring!
As the world continually globalizes and cultures from one area influence others abroad, fun and enjoyable facets are bound to take center stage and push above the fold. It can be said that from the early 1990s all of the pieces were in play and aligned so that Japan’s brand of kawaii aesthetic could take the world by storm! And so it definitely did!
Not only is Japan the capital of cute, but really it’s regarded quite often as the capital of cool as well. As kawaii culture is a facet of Japanese culture as a whole, it lends support to this prestige of coolness and was really pushed especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s as an important step to revitalizing Japan’s economy and to secure the country’s position as an innovator and gatekeeper of cultural cachet. The marketing genius is rather clear to see, as cute characters are quite simple on the surface, but hold the power to move whole swaths of people who are looking for a quick escape from daily routines or an added brightness to their day!
Likely the most important reason of all that Sanrio is successful and loved worldwide is the freedom that each country's branch of the company is given for wiggle room in terms of product design. This means that different regions may sell slightly variant products based on the tastes and preferences of each region in question. In a nutshell, this helps Sanrio to fit each market type better rather than if there were no product variations at all across the world. Sanrio's trust and confidence in its collaborative partners helps foster a sense of cooperation and creativity that makes for a sense of positivity throughout the whole product design and planning process.
The Future is Bright!
The future holds many challenges–but also plenty of opportunities–for Sanrio going forward. With so many cute and lovable characters, plus a practically endless array of items and even foods to decorate and embellish, there seems to be no end in sight! The world of Japanese culture tends to innovate well and although there’s strong competition from the digital side that threatens to steal some spotlight, we think that there’s always a space in both the analog & digital worlds to fill with cute and lovable things to make our everyday lives more enjoyable and fun! Let’s pay attention to where Sanrio goes in the future and how the brand navigates the changing media, branding, and even commerce landscapes.
Sanrio’s biggest challenge going forward into the future is somewhat abstract, which is how to best continue creating surprises for fans. We may see more new characters pop up every so often, but it’s more likely that additional creativity and imagination will be put into mainstay characters like Hello Kitty, Pompompurin, My Melody, Cinnamoroll and others to keep them current and ever evolving with the times.
What Do You Think?
It’s safe to say that most people enjoy a taste of nostalgia from time to time. As the old saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, and we can’t agree more. There’s always room for optimization and refreshes, but the key to nostalgia being a selling point is the fact that it equals stability in the minds of many. Think about it, isn’t it nice to know that Hello Kitty, for instance, is just as energetic today as she was when she first debuted? It’s nice to have something like that to rely on, knowing that a bright smile is waiting to greet you each day. One could say that it’s simple, but isn’t it a nice point?
Be sure to let us know in the comments your answer to our original question: What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Sanrio’? We’d love to see how your answers align or add to what we’ve written above!