From electronic products to snacks sold at convenience stores, it seems every possible product or package in Japan is adorned with a character of some sort. In a culture where consumers grow up with manga at their bedsides, many Japanese companies create original characters and leverage them as part of their branding strategy. There are even what are called ‘gotochi’ characters, or “local characters” for every prefecture in Japan. But perhaps the most successful character in terms of recognition is the virtual vocaloid diva Hatsune Miku. That’s according to a recent survey conducted by Tokyo Polytechnic University.
The survey targeted those who like to listen to music, polling 1,000 people between the ages of 12 to 39. When asked about their preferred genre, 40% of teenagers answered Vocaloid music (created with voice synthesizing software). When asked about their awareness of vocaloid characters, 95% of all respondents were familiar with Hatsune Miku. Many respondents first became aware of the virtual diva through TV and video sharing sites such as Youtube and Niconico-Douga. This survey is pretty remarkable because a previous poll in 2010 by Yamaha, the company behind vocaloid technology, showed that only 60% were familiar with Hatsune-Miku. That means that in a span of less than two years, the vocaloid character has gone fully mainstream.
In the past year alone, Hatsune Miku has been appearing all over the place:
- Featured at a panel event at Mercedez-Benz fashion week
- Featured in a fun aumented reality Domino’s Pizza app
- Vanquish used Hatsune Miku as its model in stores
- Family Mart, one of the largest convinience store chains in Japan, began to sell original Hatsune Miku merchandise at their stores
- Google, to promote its browser Google Chrome, has taken advantage of Hatsune Miku in their TV commercials as well. See the video below.