The Insidious Genius of Hello Kitty-Branded Beer

A colorful new ploy to turn Chinese women into alcoholics
Taiwan Tsing Beer Co./BloombergBusinessweek

Hello Kitty, having been slapped onto just about every other imaginable consumer product on this little blue marble of ours, is now being used to market beer in Asia.* 

Consumers in China and Taiwan can now pick from six fruit-flavored brews, including peach, lemon-lime, passion fruit, and banana, sporting the cartoon cat on the can. With about half the alcohol content of a Budweiser, they're not very potent. But as Kotaku's Eric Jou put it, "They're so ridiculously smooth and tasty that one can barely tell they're drinking beer. It's almost like drinking fruit juice, even if the cans do say 'beer.'"

This is for the kids, right? Maybe not. Hello Kitty has plenty of adult fans, especially across Asia (we are, after all, talking about a 40-year-old icon). This seems more like a silly but smart branding ploy to reach China's great untapped booze market: women.

Reliable figures on drinking habits in China are apparently tough to come by. But as a World Health Organization bulletin recently argued, the statistics we have suggest that, "high-risk drinking behaviour has reached epidemic proportions" in the country. That is, epidemic proportions among men. Only 15 percent of women considered themselves drinkers, compared to 55.6 percent of males, according to another national survey. For every 1 female alcoholic, there are approximately 33 male alcoholics. 

In other words, it's reasonable to suspect that beer might have an image problem with some Chinese women. If so, how could a beer company cater to them? A low-alcohol, sweet beverage seems like a good place to start. And why not market it with a familiar cartoon character that's become a symbol of childlike innocence the world over (which is pretty much the exact opposite of a bunch of men getting sauced)? Sounds pretty canny to me. 

_______

*This may or may not be the first time Hello Kitty has been used to sell beer. In 2009, the image of a Hello Kitty-branded six-pack of Beck's began floating around the Internet. However, the photo looks pretty dubious, and many versions include a logo from the image editing site Blingee. I haven't found any official confirmation that the picture is real (Anheuser-Busch Inbev has yet to respond to my email). UPDATE, 1:50 PM: An AB Inbev spokeswoman has confirmed that the image was in fact a fake. 

Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In