Sunday, August 28, 2011
Rambling Rant: Sanrio and Our Lady of Everything, Hello Kitty
Growing up I had always gone to the Sanrio Store as a kid, and it was quite possibly my favorite place in the mall, and every time I get the chance I still go to one out of nostalgia/misplaced customer loyalty/Asian desire for cute stuff.
I'm no expert on the history of this brand so if any of this is wrong please excuse me, but it seems like Hello Kitty, more so than any other Sanrio character, is really everywhere. However, it's also the form in which it is everywhere that kind of fascinates me.
I remember as a kid how fascinated I was by how detailed so much (though I must say, not all) Sanrio stuff is. Even then, I was never impressed by the quality of it because hell yes, it is overpriced. But that price markup is sort of made up for the fact that Sanrio products were unique and cute in detailed and inexplicably new ways that "normal" Western stuff just wasn't (I'll leave my argument for the fact that Westerners often seem to just not "get" kawaii stuff for another time).
This type of stuff is also marketed very clearly at younger children, and I wonder how much of a variation this is from Japan, where the targeted age group may not be as young, and where many of the designs for things may be a bit more detailed and intricate than the "cat on simple pattern" formula that seems to have flourished here.
And I can understand why this would happen. Cute, kawaii things have a larger market and target audience in Asia, while here it seems to be targeted mostly at young children, no matter how popular it seems to be among teens/young adults/Mariah Carey. I wonder how well more "Japanese" stuff (for lack of a better phrase) sells in American Sanrio stores as compared to the cheaper, simpler Hello Kitty lines that would sell better among smaller children.
Blah blah, it seems like what I'm trying to get at is this: Hello Kitty/Sanrio is simplifying itself for the American market by sticking to its main breadwinner, Hello Kitty, and keeping it in super cheap, super simple, "kid friendly" patterns to appease easily impressed kids and their parents who wouldn't drop more money into a more detailed Japanese accessory that was probably aimed at an older audience anyway.
Part of that bothers me. I realize there should be a product range for kids, but I think that there is a lot missed in narrowing the product range like that. First and foremost, a lot of characters are lost out on (and I love me some Keroppi), but it also seems as if there is a general drop in quality in stuff that is already pretty low quality to begin with.
I have to think this has to do with what is considered acceptable and age appropriate in the West as compared to the East, where cute stuff may be more acceptable for more ages.