My daughter carries a Hello Kitty stuffed animal everywhere she goes. One day we were heading to lunch and I asked her, “What’s Hello Kitty going to have for lunch?”
To which my 3 year old daughter responded, “Daddy, Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth. She can’t eat.”
This is kind of sad for Hello Kitty but as far as I can tell nothing is holding her back. Despite no major television presence or marketing efforts this character is lightening in a bottle. In fact, there have been several efforts at Hello Kitty cartoons in the U.S., but all have been more or less failures.
Everywhere I look I see stores selling her products in large sections.
We have Hello Kitty cups, dolls, board games, etc. As I write this, she’s sitting with her Hello Kitty doll in her Hello Kitty pajamas (she is watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse).
Little boys, girls, and teens love her. I even like her. She just has something that makes her different and better, though it’s hard to identify. It’s what makes a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house, something more than just a simple ranch house.
She is a character whose design and simplicity just hit a market cord. Hello Kitty is Twitter; the absence of her mouth is somehow her 140 characters. She is Instagram in the face of thousands of cat characters, or photo apps as the case might be. Her design elegance, that which is refined and missing, is what makes her the stand out. Her minimal facial feature design, a bow that is almost an abstract shape, are somehow all what makes her so beloved. Extra features would not make her better, extra design and features are what made her competitors fail.
And yet predicting what feature or absence of feature makes for a Hello Kitty, Instagram, or Pinterest is nearly impossible without hindsight.
This quote from @sacca makes the point on Pinterest:
— Chris Sacca (@sacca) April 13, 2012
It had been done before. But somehow Pinterest left off the mouth. And I bet that is part of the reason Pinterest has the Hello Kitty Effect.
These things happen in nature and culture every day. It’s not just startups. Instagram and Pinterest had precursors, but something in their designs features, design, and the absence of a features stressed through some elegant minimalism made them the ones that got loved. And it struck me that Hello Kitty is pretty much the same and an even simpler example…