Unlike many of the cute-but-dumb characters marketed to the loving public in Japan, Mameshiba (pronounced “ma-meh-shee-ba”) has something of a slightly bizarre edge. And as a result has become phenomenally successful.
This variety of bean (“mame”) characters pop up in everyday situations and in a wonderfully naive and innocent childlike voice politely greet their finders and then proceed to inform them of quirky, off-putting facts.
The interesting thing about Mameshiba is that the videos used to promote them aren’t derived from any existing product, film, book or other media, but the other way round – the videos came first.
The Mameshiba “family” (including edamame, lentils, chickpeas etc.) was simply designed and created to be cute and delight the public. The Tokyo-based Dentsu advertising agency came up with the idea and launched Mameshiba on the public via the internet, mobile phones and TV.
Consumers become instantly attached to heartwarming qualities of the character, thereby generating demand for a pile of merchandise produced by other companies but all licensed by Dentsu and featuring the Mameshiba “brand”. The stuff has been flying off the shelves since it first appeared – Japanese sales in 2008 and 2009 totalled over 7.5 billion yen (USD85 million). Mameshiba brand recognition amongst under-40 year-olds in Japan is a staggering 78%.
Products (there are now over 250 different products) include stationery, soft toys (from tiny to absolutely enormous), stickers, straps, stamps, miniature figures, various toys, juggling balls, kitchen utensils, downloadable mobile phone artwork/emoticons, books, dvds and biscuits. These images were taken at a small store display on one of Tokyo’s most fashionable shopping streets, Omotesando:
(click the images to enlarge)
This only begins to scratch the surface of what’s on offer, and one can only admire the exceptional perception and talent Dentsu had in tapping into the essence of cute appeal.
–>> Here are the original videos which delighted the public and kicked the whole thing off. There are some English subtitled versions of the videos too, but to be honest, it loses a lot in translation and I think you can appreciate the characters more even without understanding what they are saying in Japanese.
Due to the incredible success in Japan, worldwide demand was growing and in February this year an English website and online store were launched.
As a footnote, although one would imagine the biggest market for such character-based goods consists of children and school students, in Japan this isn’t always the case. It’s not uncommon to see elegantly-dressed older women or businessmen pull out their mobile phone and dangling from it will be a bunch of straps featuring a miniature Hello Kitty, Miffy, or any one of a vast number of different characters available to buy everywhere from toy shops and department stores to convenience stores and train stations.
Get free Mameshiba wallpaper – click here!
Shokupan Mimi – maybe the cutest thing in Japan for kids!
Check out the Namacha Panda too and listen to his song, another incredibly popular character!