Interview with Simon Gresswell from Sanrio

May 22, 2018
8 min read

The Bugg Report catches up with Simon Gresswell, COO Sanrio Global Limited – EMEA, India, Oceania and Mr Men – Worldwide, during his recent trip to Australia in April to discuss all things Sanrio!

Sanrio

Great to speak with you Simon; can you tell us about your recent trip down-under to Australia?

Thanks, you too. Well, to use the local lingo, I am absolutely stoked by the trip to Melbourne and Sydney. We had some very positive and constructive licensee discussions with partners such as Designworks, Penguin, RMJ Brands, Peter Alexander and Showtime Attractions and some really interactive meetings with Buying, PR & Licensing teams from the likes of Cotton On and Big W. It was a real pleasure to hear their interest and discuss how best to realise our brands for their brand and their target consumers. It’s even clearer after this latest trip that Australia is a vibrant and creative market place and the licensees and retailers look to what else is happening in other parts of the world, as well as innovate regularly themselves. As a licensor, that’s an ideal combination. Retail has been tough like many territories, but the adaptable approach of many key partners, gives me great encouragement for the short and long-term future growth of our business. In addition to creating a packed schedule for me, Haven ran a really exciting and humorous Licensee Event in Melbourne’s Backlot Studios. We packed a 75 seat private screening room and I think we delivered an informative and amusing update and news of what’s to come, with the obvious benefits of a big screen, big sound and big laughs, especially for Gudetama and Aggretsuko. This gave us the chance to fully update the key players on how Sanrio is strategically refreshing ‘Hello Kitty’, with some sharp marketing and focused designs, as well as remind everyone of the power and adaptability of the ‘Mr. Men Little Miss’ portfolio of 90 characters, plus show some new characters that have joined and are joining the family now. It also gave us platform to outline how Sanrio is becoming a more proactive licensor via a wider and more varied portfolio of brands, with a potent mixture of properties proven in Asia and even introducing something completely different to what our partners would expect from Sanrio. More of the little red panda later!

Hello Kitty is a Sanrio brand that is iconic in so many ways and has been featured across many genres of culture. What do you have planned for Hello Kitty not only in Australia but all around the world?

In addition to the brand re-positioning of Kitty, via an excellent marketing campaign based on recruiting (unpaid) social media influencers, who were already genuine fans of the brand, we have set up some really hot co-brands with global and prestigious companies like Puma, FILA, GCDS and Pinko. Pop-up and limited edition retail initiatives with the likes of TopShop, Primark and ASOS so far, have really raised the profile of Kitty again in the U.K. and as said, are noticed from all corners of the globe. Across Europe, a combination of long term and new retail partners are starting to ‘come back’ to Kitty, in a period when classic and proven icons, have even more commercial value and equity than perhaps ever before. We are grateful to H&M and others who have stood by our little gem for so long and are enthused by what we’re doing now and supporting this. There is definite momentum that has been built through the implemented strategic plan of 2017 and the hard work of the team and through the coming months, you’ll see more of these brand and retail partnerships revealed, as we convert strategy and marketing into strong licenses and retail sales. Another feature of the re-positioning and conversion to retail sales, is a more focused approach to design and style guides. We have taken more control of the visual ID of Kitty, as we seek to re-build the licensing programme. The beauty of such an iconic character, is that any and every design style can work, but this is part of the challenge as well. So, we felt we needed to guide licensees more, go back to the essence of the brand for teens/adult and create a new cute look, that news fans could associate too. Hence we have just launched Hello Kitty Retro and Hello Kitty Club accordingly, with this in mind and with the aim of also generating more uniformity at retail, whilst still of course maintaining the ability to do bespoke designs for and with retailers & brand partners, where it works when apply their own brand ‘signature’ to Kitty.

Mr. Men has been an amazingly popular brand for children since it was first released back in the 1970s. Given the vast number of angles the brand has featured such as education, fun, laughter and emotion, what is your overall goal for the brand in 2018 and beyond?

Mr. Men Little Miss is still one of, if not the, simplest and most brilliant character brand out there. Yes, I’m biased, having been privileged to first work on the brand 25 years ago, but with a growing family of characters (through bespoke communications campaigns and gently educational initiatives), there is so much potential beyond the great work already done by our teams in U.K., France, Asia and also via our Agent network. I genuinely believe we are only scratching the surface of how Mr. Men Little Miss can speak to consumers, through consumer products, campaigns, education, digital and experiences. Some of the retro graphics, take the 90+ character family further into high street fashion world and we’ve had great success with a set of adult parody books, which again everyone can relate to. We have grown the reach with ecommerce, personalisation and cross-licensing mash ups, so look out for more from the characters that reflect all our personalities, more than just about any others. It’s no secret that Mr. Men Little Miss has had success in animation in the past and how we plan to grow the brand globally, is via an exciting journey into various media, in the coming months and years.

Gudetama is a hilarious new property from Sanrio and is sure to create a very unique collection of fans from around the world. For those who are not familiar with Gudetama, can you explain what this property is and what Sanrio have planned for its development?

Gudetama AKA, The Lazy Egg, is hilarious and just made for fun on consumer products. It’s (not a his or a her) snappy but sloth-like utterances are transmitted via digital nano-episodes, that will tickle you from a combination of Sanrio’s traditional cuteness and humorous soundbytes for the millennial generation! Don’t take my word for it, ask anyone in Japan, where the egg that lacks ‘spunk’, has already had 5 phenomenal years of retail success, or ask some of the world’s leading YouTubers, who came to Tokyo with us to live, breathe, draw and meet (but NOT eat) The Lazy Egg.

We have also seen the first screening of the sweet but attitudinal new property Aggretsuko on Netflix recently! What is this property all about?

Aggretsuko is well… out there… in both senses. The concept is pretty left field for Sanrio (note she is designed by the same Sanrio designer who came up with Gudetama) and she just launched on screen to world on Netflix in 190 countries, on Friday 20th April. Our little red panda is a (fictional… honest) office worker, who takes out the frustrations of her daily grind, by allowing her rage to get the better of her and heading to sing death metal karaoke and drinking beer, of an evening. Sure to inspire some lifestyle products and experiences, our US team have already launched the character with an exclusive at Hot Topic and a residency at a renowned karaoke bar in the US. Watch this space. Arrrrgggghhhh!

Thank you for your time Simon and we hope to see you back in Australia soon!

A pleasure and great to be back in Oz, with so much enthusiasm for what we’re doing and where we’re headed as a company. Thanks to Haven and all licensees/retailers for the meetings and coming to the event. See you again soon!


For licensing enquiries in Australia & New Zealand contact Diana Markezic at Haven on +61 (03) 9015 6688 or email diana@havenglobal.com