21 July 2006
Recently, Star Wars was named best license of the year by the International Licensing Industry Merchandiser's Association. Nobody was particularly surprised, but it was nice to have LIMA's official word on it. Indeed, can anybody think of another franchise that could possibly challenge the perennial pocket-lining powerhouse that is the Star Wars legacy? Some other license or brand that could match the amazing merchandising prowess of quite possibly the most well-known films on the planet?
After giving this matter much thought, I came across only one: Hello Kitty.
Yes, the simple iconic cat whose visage has become the very personification of cute. If any franchise could possibly match Star Wars's merchandising madness, it would be Hello Kitty.
Does Hello Kitty have what it takes to topple the license of the year, or perhaps even the biggest license of all time? Let's find out:
Hello Kitty Vs Star Wars � Five Round Showdown!
Round One: Money Money Money
The most effective means of measuring the popularity of any license is by how much money it makes. How does Hello Kitty measure up to Star Wars in the financial domain?
Last year alone, Star Wars brought in approximately $3 billion in worldwide sales.
According to www.businessweek.com, Hello Kitty earns parent company Sanrio half a billion dollars annually in franchise fees - a mere 1/6 of Star Wars's earnings.
These are just the results for last financial year, though. Star Wars revenue peaks and troughs according to the release dates of the movies, whereas Hello Kitty provides a more stable source of income. As soon as you take into account the earnings from the films themselves, though, the result is clear.
Winner: Star Wars (for 2006, anyway).
Round Two: Google Fight!
For the second round, we turn to Google to provide us with some cold hard numbers. There's no better way to measure any topic's Internet presence.
'Hello Kitty' returned 30,500,000 results.
'Star Wars' returned 166,000,000 results.
Winner: Star Wars wins this round comfortably. Just for reference, 'Jesus Christ' returns 80,600,000 results. Star Wars is twice as popular as Jesus.
Round Three: Longevity
Star Wars might have been named best license of THIS year, but how does the movie franchise hold up against Hello Kitty in terms of staying power?
Star Wars: A New Hope was released in theatres on May 20, 1977, making the franchise 29 years old. Earnings from the merchandise and overall interest in the intellectual property varied wildly over this period - for about ten years, after the hype from Return of the Jedi had died off and before the 20th anniversary Special Edition of the original trilogy was released in cinemas, the license was in a financial lull, kept alive mostly by its hardcore fanbase. The release of the prequel trilogy has of course resurged interest, and with the continuing success of its games and books, as well as the television series in development, it is likely that it will be quite a few more years before the merchandising frenzy dies down again.
Hello Kitty came into being in 1974, and is thus already three years older than Star Wars. During her 32 year lifespan, Hello Kitty has enjoyed a much more consistent success, though the brand does not have quite as explosive an impact that Star Wars does. Since 2002, however, Hello Kitty has been experiencing a gradual downfall in sales, having this year been overtaken as the most popular mascot character in Japan by Disney's Winnie the Pooh.
Winner: Hello Kitty, for both age and consistency. Though in another couple of years, that might be a different story.
Round Four: Merchandising Madness
The more popular a license, the more products money-making scumbags will try to slap its logo onto in a never-ending attempt to sell junk to the public.
Around the release of Episode I in particular, Star Wars turned up on nearly everything. Backpacks, stationary, cups, bedspreads, calendars... there is also, of course, the lucrative toys and collectibles market. Not even Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings have yet managed to reach the same merchandising heights. Several Disney-released films, in particular the Lion King and any of Pixar's offerings, have certainly approached a similar range of products, but their market presence is always fleeting and comparatively small. Walk into your nearest Mr. Toys and compare how much shelf space is dedicated to Star Wars versus nearly anything else.
Is Lucasfilm the merchandising master, though? Consider this: according to Wikipedia, Hello Kitty has appeared on over 22,000 products.
That's right. Twenty two THOUSAND.
Hello Kitty appears on everything imaginable. Car seat covers, jewellery, shoes, clocks, DVD players, cutting boards, kitchen utensils, computers� you can even get Hello Kitty electric guitars, or a Hello Kitty credit card. A CREDIT CARD. Just the thing to buy all of your other ridiculous Hello Kitty merchandise with.
If that wasn't enough to convince you that Hello Kitty has appeared on everything that can be sold� what about an airplane?
Winner: Hello Kitty completely crushes Star Wars in this category. Show me a Star Wars Boeing, and maybe I'll change my mind.
That leaves us with a tie-break! So now everything is left up to...
Round Five: The Fans
I think this needs no explanation.
Overall Winner: Hello Kitty!