Updated: Apr 21, 2022
It is no secret that Japanese people are obsessed with all things Kawaii. But do you know what exactly Kawaii is or how companies use Kawaii? Let's look into it!
What exactly is Kawaii?
Kawaii (Japanese: or, 'lovely,' 'loveable,' 'cute,' or 'adorable') is the Japanese culture of cuteness. Furry, puffy, silky surfaces characterize the texture of Kawaii. Kawaii objects are typically characterized by a combination of roundness and softness. In addition, sensitive appeal combined with a set of specific personality traits distinguishes a truly kawaii item from a random fluffy pillow. Being kawaii is about more than just appearances.
Cute behavior in Japanese culture implies shyness, awkwardness, child-like motions, and facial expressions. Kawaii Culture, in most cases, refers to Japanese pop culture. It covers a wide range of topics, such as colorful cafes, fashionable clothing, popular anime characters, adorable animal mascots, and so on. Japanese pop artists dress, talk, and act kawaii. Harajuku has so many sub-fashions of kawaii dresses that young women and men worship to wear. J-Pop idol Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is an example of a famous artist who publicly wears kawaii fashions.
Most brand mascots are designed to be cute. Kawaii-ness is so deeply ingrained in Japanese culture that it can be found in a variety of forms, ranging from guro-kawaii ("gross-cute") to kimo-kawaii ("scary-cute" or “ugly-cute”).
Kawaii characters are part of Japanese people’s lives!!!!???
A Japanese market research company, Asmarq, asked men and women aged their 20s - 50s how important characters are in their lives. In the sample of 800 people of all ages (the 20s to 50s), the average answers in people stating they are indifferent to the existence of characters are only 20 - 30%. In other words, 70% - 80% of 800 people of all ages think that characters are somewhat important in their lives.
Character merchandising market size
So it is no surprise that character businesses make a great cash flow in Japan. According to the survey conducted by Macromill, for 1000 people aged between 20 - 69 years old, people who answered they have character merchandise goods marked the highest for women in their 20s at 90.8%, followed by women in their 30s (89.7%) and 40s (83.3%). The heist group for men was also people in their 20s at 60.8%. In this sample, more than half of the participants answered that they possess some kind of character merchandised good for both genders combined (62.5%).
Since 2013, the size of the character merchandising market has been steadily increasing. However, the industry was expected to shrink in fiscal year 2020 due to factors such as a decrease in the number of children, a lack of inbound tourism, and lower sales at theme parks. According to Yano Research Institute, the size of the market was 1,254 Billion yen ( more than 10 billion Dollars) as of 2019.
What Consumers are looking for in characters
One source states that people most look for a sense of “Healing” and “Peace” in characters. Further, young kids ( toddler) to people in their early 20s also look for communication values in possessing characters (by communicating who they are to their friends through character preferences), middle-aged women also look for healing and escapism to characters, middle-aged men look for connections to their childhood memories, and stories and excitements that are far from their real life ( For example, comics are often targeted toward middle aged men.
Characters that have a round design and do not assert themselves are popular with Japanese people. People may come to think that these characters’ "expressionlessness" allows them to accept their feelings and thoughts without resistance. As a result, this leads them to develop a sense of healing in interactions with these characters. In other words, one may say that it can feel stressful when a character has a strong personality for modern people who tend to seek comfort and healing from characters.
Characters and foreign brands collaborations
The American brand MAC Cosmetics released a collaboration line of lipstick with Kakao Talk. Although Kakao and friends are well-known characters from Korea, the product announcement was hugely picked up by Japanese media, and they were launched at several major Japanese department stores including Isetan and Lumine.
Gucci released a collaboration sweater collection with Japanese Anime Bananya ( A Japanese animation series that highlights the lives of cats that live inside of bananas ) in May 2021. The 14 items include sweaters, T-shirts, sneakers, and accessories. The price varies from 55,000 yen to 132,000 yen ( Approximately. $448 - $1,076).
Doing character collaboration to win the Japanese customers can be effective. Collaborating with an already established Japanese character can bring new and unknown American brands brand awareness. Collaborating with a well-accepted Japanese character can also boost the brand for already established brands like the case of Gucci. In addition, character collaborations can create a sense of familiarity and affection from customers. Companies can also tap into new audiences who adore these characters.