Ask someone if they know some Japanese words, they will say, ‘Yes: ohayō, arigatō and kawaii!’ (‘good morning,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘cute’). In Japan, boys and girls, men and women use this word. It has become part of the culture and many companies chose to take advantage of it. It first came from the phrase ‘a radiant face’ and meant ‘able to be loved’. But why is it such a thing in Japan and how can you adapt your campaign to attract cute-addicted customers?
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Why Is Kawaii Popular?
In Japan, ‘kawaii’ is used every day, for everything. Cuteness is a beauty criterion for girls; they prefer being called cute than sexy or pretty. Even internationally, Japanese women are characterized as ‘cute’ by foreigners, even if they have never traveled to Japan before. The kawaiiness may have started at the end of the 20th century with the arrival of youth fashion in Harajuku, Tokyo, or with the use of mechanical pencils which produced finer lines (to write big and round characters with little pictures looking like emojis).
In manga (Japanese comics), kawaii characters are everywhere. There is often a character which stands out by its cuteness, like a mascot. On advertisements or even warning signs, cute drawings are preferred to pictures. Many mothers make kyaraben for their kids, which are adorable obentō with animals or characters. Daruma, stylized representations of a monk used as lucky charms, has become cuter and cuter over time. In short, Japanese love and especially love buying what is adorable.
Why It Is Good for Your Business
As you can well imagine, it is a great opportunity when you want to enter the Japanese market. You do not necessarily have to make cute products to attract customers, but choosing a mascot or a logo which matches Japanese culture is a good bet. Also, check if your brand name does not have a poor meaning in Japanese. If it is, you can opt for a more kawaii name too.
How to Create a Mascot That Japanese Customers Will Like
First, you will have to do your research and look at the most popular characters – it can be an anime character like Happy in the manga series Fairy Tail, Peanuts in the comic illustrated by Charles M. Schulz or the Apple logo.Usually, the shape is simple, the character’s expression (if there is) reduced to its minimum. Big eyes and short legs and arms are also cute – like babies. Add a characteristic feature, like Pikachu’s red cheeks or Minnie Mouse’s red ribbon and skirt. Choose a color which will be distinctive (if someone sees your logo from far away, for example). Other distinctive features can be long ears or legs, fur, an object held by your character…
It should also say something about your brand. You can choose to ‘cutify’ a drone or a robot if you sell those kinds of products, for example. You can also change your character’s shape so that it represents your products or your brand name (its first letter for example).
Once you have found the perfect mascot, draw it from every angle and in every position. Do not forget to add some details, like a little tuft of hair or tiny fists and feet.
Then, you can decide to set a specific background color or to let it blank, and think about some (cute) poses for your mascot. But above all, you have to choose its personality and stick to it. You can write a list of rules with a detailed description of your character, so that its personality will be consistent.
Also, use your mascot only when you need it, do not try to put it everywhere on your website or on your social media channels. It is supposed to be a useful tool, not just a picture to fill in blanks.
Famous Japanese Companies Using Cute Characters
Sanrio, a Japanese company founded in 1960, designed and licensed many cute characters, such as Hello Kitty, Cinnamoroll, the Jewelpets, Chococat or Badtz-Maru.
Founded in 1889, the company created a large number of video games with many cute characters, like Mario, Toad, Kirby, Pikmin, Pokemon, etc.
The Pokemon Company
Owned by Nintendo (at 32%), Game Freak and Creatures, the Pokemon company was founded in 1998 through a joint investment. Pokemon is one of the best known franchises. It has many cute characters to its credit, including Pikachu, Eevee, Mew, Jigglypuff, Pichu, Piplup or Vulpix.
Smaller Companies: The Recruit Sumai Company
It is not as famous as the other companies we saw, but it is still nice to see what smaller companies make. Its mascot can be seen everywhere in advertisements (for the brand SUUMO), a small, round and fluffy green character. Typical of a cute Japanese mascot.
If you want to enter the Japanese market, you must understand its culture and act accordingly. So why not (ad)opting for a mascot?
Reference: japanese-tradition.com/en/kawaii/ www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/kawaii www.creativebloq.com/branding/how-create-successful-mascot-10134716 bigthink.com/paul-ratner/why-do-the-japanese-love-cute-things Images: Sanrio: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e2/The_Adventures_of_Hello_Kitty_and_Friends.png Nintendo: /sumitdutta.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/nintendo-characters-mario-zelda-yoshi-donkey-kong.jpg?w=470 Pokemon: cdn.bulbagarden.net/upload/7/7c/Alola_Pose.jpg Suumo: suumo.jp/edit/suumo-heya/item/download/bg01_w1280h1024.jpg