Hello kitty Beer?
Hello Kitty beer - no it is not a joke.
The cartoon cat aims to get Chinese women to buy a low-alcohol brew. If a former boy band and The Simpsons can sell beer, then why not Hello Kitty?
Please. Sit back, have a beer and let's pretend we all know that Sanrio's flagship character is nearly 40 years old and has fans making retirement plans. "What about the children," you say? What about the even more cynical marketing behind this latest move?
The cans of six fruit-flavored brews -- including peach, lemon-lime, passion fruit, and banana -- all have the purposefully cute cartoon cat on the can. Does that mean they're angling for kids? Not any more than the presence of Samuel Adams on Boston Beer's (SAM -0.51%) products is a lure for middle school social studies students.
No, the Hello Kitty beers are available only in China and Taiwan, restricted to roughly 2.5% alcohol by volume (or half that of a Budweiser) and are aimed at those nations' adult women.
Marketing to kids of any gender is already unwise, but particularly so in China -- where nearly 56% of men drink and the World Health Organization says high-risk alcohol consumption among them "has reached epic proportions."
As a result, Chinese women don't exactly have a high opinion of beer, thanks to a rate of alcoholism that counts 33 males to every one female. Going after those women with an intoxicating, higher-alcohol brew associated with a boozy night out just isn't going to work.
Tone down the alcohol and soften the image with the more pleasant Hello Kitty, however, and those teetotaling drinkers may enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a much safer pace.
At least that's one theory. The other is that sometimes a beer brand needs a hand from a recognizable name. Here in the U.S., beer companies have lent their labels to former boy band Hanson, the HBO show "Game Of Thrones", Sub Pop Records, sports radio host Dan Patrick, Major League Soccer's D.C. United, MLS fan groups the Timbers Army and Emerald City Supporters, and "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto.
That the company behind the Hello Kitty beers thinks it needs a cartoon cat to appeal to female drinkers is discouraging, but the use of nostalgia and a beloved childhood favorite to sell beer isn't unprecedented. Just ask Universal Studios, which pours both a version of Duff Beer from "The Simpsons" and an interpretation of Butterbeer from the Harry Potter series that can be topped off with a shot of rum.
By Jason Notte
Hello Kitty beer advertisement (© Taiwan Tsing Beer Company via Facebook)