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Hello Kitty: The Remarkable Story of Sanrio and the Billion Dollar Feline Phenomenon [Hardcover]

by Ken Belson, Brian Bremner
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 4, 2003 0470820942 978-0470820940 1
Now in paperback, the inside story of the cartoon kitty that became a multibillion-dollar global enterprise
The only business book to offer an in-depth exploration of the Hello Kitty phenomenon, Hello Kitty tells the amazing story of how the Japanese company Sanrio bucked the odds and transformed a bulbous, all-but-featureless cartoon critter into a multibillion-dollar global business powerhouse. Readers will learn how and why the Hello Kitty brand clicked with children and adults, across cultures, and how it continues to successfully compete, internationally, with Disney and Warner Brothers. This book is packed with valuable lessons about the awesome power of branding, marketing, and licensing to capture the hearts and minds of consumers.

Ken Belson (Tokyo, Japan) covers Japanese business, economics, and government policy for the New York Times. His work has also appeared in BusinessWeek, Fortune, Bloomberg News, the International Herald Tribune, and Barron's, among others. Brian Bremner (Tokyo, Japan) currently serves as Asia Economics Editor for BusinessWeek and writes a weekly column called "Eye on Japan" for BusinessWeek Online.

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Editorial Reviews


A bizarre but strangely addictive read. -- Gulf Business, 17th March 2004

"...a great read with real insight into how clever marketing can find success in highly competitive markets." -- Marketing Business, March 2004

"...tells what must be one of the oddest branding success stories ever..." -- Financial Times, 29 January 2004

“If, like me, you supposed that Hello Kitty was only to be found on pencil cases and stickers…this book will make you think again.” (City to Cities, April/May 2004)

"...tells what must be one of the oddest branding success stories ever..." (Financial Times, 29 January 2004)

"...this book tells the fascinating story of this cute character [Hello Kitty] that has generated close to $1 billion in sales..." (The Chronicle (Reading), 8 January 2004)

"...a great read with real insight into how clever marketing can find success in highly competitive markets." (Marketing Business, March 2004)

“A bizarre but strangely addictive read.” (Gulf Business, 17th March 2004)

From the Inside Flap

Hello Kitty is Japan's brilliant answer to Disney's Mickey Mouse phenomenon in the U.S. This book explains how Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, turned a cute cartoon cat into a multi-billion dollar global commodity. Hello Kitty merchandise helped Sanrio generate nearly $1 billion in revenue in 2002 partly through licensing agreements with more than 500 companies in Japan and hundreds more overseas. The distinct face of Hello Kitty is now plastered on 22,000 different products and sold in about 40 countries.

Sanrio's biggest success is its ability to create products that appeal not only to children, but women in their 20s and 30s around the world. That's why Kitty adorns not only bedspreads, backpacks and notebooks, but mobile phones, toasters and even cars. The book shows why Hello Kitty products are one of Japan's hottest exports and how Sanrio successfully globalized its “golden egg.”

In telling that story, this book shows how one company bucked the odds and turned a cute cat cartoon character into a ferocious business plan. Readers will learn about how and why the Hello Kitty brand clicked with kids and adults alike and how it continues to compete internationally with the likes of Disney and Warner Brothers.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (December 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470820942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470820940
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,167,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive... almost September 26, 2004
By A. Gaw
This book was recommended by a friend who has extensive experience in the consumer goods industry. It was an interesting read, as I'm a fan of Hello Kitty as well as a business school graduate. The authors do a good job of explaining a lot of the background regarding how Sanrio got to where it is today.

One of the things I hoped this book would answer is the question of why Sanrio would distribute its products through a mass retailer like Target. It never even came close to this issue; I'm still curious to know Sanrio's strategy with Target.

I agree with Tristan Beaulieu that the later chapters begin to repeat content from earlier chapters. I'm not sure if this is because it was written by two authors and simply wasn't integrated well enough. Also, some of the earlier chapters refer to vignettes coming later in the book, but it turns out to be a letdown when most of the story has already been revealed by its earlier reference.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong introduction, Weak follow-up March 26, 2004
In one of the only books I've ever found attacking directly at the marketing and history of Sanrio without the usage of the cute Sanrio graphics, Belson and Bremmer give more than enough information about the roots of Sanrio, the lines, some of the reasoning for the purchasing, but miss in several other areas. They do not cover why say, Chococat is more popular than Pochacco, or where the company is going to go after the 78 year old CEO, Shintaro Tsuji, retires. Belson and Bremner sort of shrug their shoulders and don't even give us guess.

I feel as if this book could've benefitted a great deal from a better editor. In later chapters, the text began to repeat what earlier chapters had said in the same words, the footnoting system was very irritating, appearing at the end of every chapter. Not something that I want to see. The text starts to wander off into an abridged history of manga, anime, video games, Jpop, typical Japanese pop-culture stuff. If I wanted that, I could go get one of the many many Japanese pop culture books that exist. Light social commentary is put in the back, citing the web response to it.

That being said, the earlier chapters are an interesting read and it is at least worth a look. If only it didn't repeat itself so much...
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Story of Hello Kitty July 2, 2006
By K. Bell
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are a Hello Kitty fan you might want to know more about how it all got started. Sometimes repetitious, but still fun to read if you are a Hello Kitty fan, this book provides tons of information about Sanrio and Hello Kitty and her makers. It is an interesting story. Did you know Bill Gates tried to buy the copywrite to Hello Kitty? A fun read. Good for summer relaxing or rainy days in a blanket. It will make you love Kitty White even more (if that is possible!)!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great concept - poorly written. January 8, 2005
I am a huge fan of the Sanrio company and everything it creates and I received this book for Christmas. The writing style is typical of a high school student's book report. The same facts are repeated over and over, making half the book seem like filler. The same numbers and figures and statements are constantly repeated. In short, the book could have been about 30 pages long without the filler.

It backtracks a lot also. It feels like every chapter is written by a new writer who was told to research Hello Kitty (like I said, it repeats). I wish it would have had a more linear style, from beginning to end.

The facts are very interesting though, and learning about the creator was also a nice treat.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not in depth enough and no really unifying thread April 20, 2005
I think the authors were writing this to be used as a textbook for a business class. There was no message beyond Hello Kitty is sucessful. Yeah, I figured that out from the title. Additionally, many details were repeated in multiple chapters. Overall there was no unifying thread from the authors. They didn't tell us their interpretation of why Hello Kitty was successful or how it came to be in their opinion. It was interesting but not earth shattering.
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