The iconic Hello Kitty brand has opened a flagship 3D printing store in Shanghai.
Hello Kitty has been with us since the 1970s when Japanese company Sanrio developed the character. It has gone on to become a firm favourite for young girls around the world and can be seen on everything from T-shirts and bags to night lights, water colours and video games.
The Hello Kitty 3D Print Concept Store will take this international celebrity to even greater heights, as proven by the one-meter tall model of the cat that was unveiled as the store manager.
Launching a bespoke concept
The store will act as a showroom for the moment and it will help launch the bespoke concept that will surely follow online as a global sales tactic soon. Customers can choose a style, material and their own unique finish for their Hello Kitty merchandise, as well as personalising them in the production stage with a printed or engraved message or name on the product.
This isn’t the company’s first foray into 3D printing and it launched a workshop in Hong Kong last July, which allowed customers to learn all about 3D printing and make their own accessories. It’s a neat educational sideline, but the main focus is surely on providing a bespoke finish to Hello Kitty’s main range.
It makes a vast number of small products like keyrings and costume jewelry from plastics, resin and lightweight metals, so 3D printing could be perfect for the company. This additional level of service that goes with bespoke products could help boost its profits, too.
This could even be the start of something bigger. By getting in on the ground floor of 3D printing, Hello Kitty could eventually release designs and become an integral part of the maker community.
Private enthusiasts and even companies have made their own models, but by making it easy to download basic scale models of the iconic cat and print them at home, Hello Kitty could help forge brand loyalty and exposure with a totally new community.
These small giveaway silhouette keyrings or novelty models might cost the company a few sales in the short-term, but if it turns a casual observer into an advocate that goes on to buy products then it’s a shrewd investment.
An enduring brand
Brands like Hello Kitty come and go all the time, yet this iconic brand is more popular and more relevant today than it ever was. One reason for this everlasting popularity is marketing and the ability to reinvent the brand year after year.
The company’s Hong Kong Marketing Director, Zhou KaiShan, suggested that there was even more to it than that and this is a way to combine animation, culture, creativity and technology in one place. It will be interesting to see where this one leads and why the company felt the need to put a flagship store front and center like this, instead of simply launching the concept online with a configurator.
That would have been a risk-free way of doing business and would have released the concept to the world. It could simply be that the company is concerned about being swamped with excessive demand and it wants to roll out and test the concept in individual territories before committing to 3D printing and bespoke products on a global scale.
Time will tell.