Most YouTubers make it big on the platform, then create branded merchandise. This is not the case for Hello Kitty, the perpetual third-grader who surprised everyone — even, according to Kitty, her managers at Sanrio — when she launched her own YouTube channel yesterday.
The mouthless cartoon girl (not cat) is nothing if not a queen of collaboration, having inked major brand deals with everyone from Converse and Vans to ASOS, not to mention appearing in photo shoots with Lady Gaga and America’s Next Top Model. And who can forget that questionable Avril Lavigne video? In fact, since her creation in 1974, Kitty has risen to fame and lucrative monetary success primarily through licensing deals.
But the markets are tough, and even someone as cute as Kitty — come on, she’s “as tall as five apples, and as heavy as three ” — has faced the repercussions. According to NBC News, Sanrio’s sales fell 13% in 2017, proving that even alignments with trendy fashion brands and new experiential launches are not enough to keep pace with the online generation.
Which brings us to YouTube. Hello Kitty has Instagram and Snapchat accounts, so it’s somewhat odd that it’s taken the brand this long to take to YouTube. (There are plenty of other Hello Kitty-themed videos on the site, though all were uploaded by third-party creators.) She addresses her delay with surprising insight about the challenges of being online, explaining that her manager told her, “Kitty, the Internet is dangerous.”
Nevertheless, she persevered, because, in her own wise words, “I don’t think I think I should be afraid to try anything new.”
In fact, Hello Kitty’s belated entrance to YouTube could serve in her favor: Despite being a “veteran” brand, Kitty’s arrival feels fresh and innovative. In her five minute-long introductory video she speaks with humor (“sometimes I Google myself”), empathy (“I know it’s very scary to do something that you’ve never done before”), and insider knowledge (“Last, I’ll say what YouTubers always say — don’t forget to subscribe to my channel!”). She even pokes fun at her voice (“it sounds like some robot”) and announces plans to bring “friends” to future videos, as YouTubers do. Maybe fellow creator Karen Yeung, who has modeled Kitty’s merch previously, will make an appearance.
After all, if Kitty is already the queen of offline collaboration, there’s no reason she shouldn’t rule the field online, too.
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