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25 April 2024

Robot Fodder Vol 9

Hello kitty

Felt cute, might delete later

Have you ever experienced that warm and fuzzy feeling when you see something doe-eyed and fluffy? Have you noticed how it makes you feel? Perhaps it makes you feel like you absolutely must have that thing or else you'll combust. THAT is the power of cute.

Undoubtedly, cuteness is a powerful way to the hearts of consumers, of all demographics. But as cute is increasingly used to sugar-coat brands, is it appealing to the wrong people and unmasking an uglier side of cute?


Compare the Meerkat, Duolingo, Andrex Puppies - the list of cute brand mascots goes on and on. These lovable characters have become synonymous with their respective brands, proving cute tactics have made brands more appealing and relatable to consumers for generations. However, as cute moves beyond characters to product packaging, is there a risk of people being drawn to products they’re not yet ready for?

Recently, skincare sales have experienced a boost, driven by the purchasing power of Gen Alpha. This generation, born entirely in the 21st century between 2010-2024, is responsible for 49% of the sales growth according to a report by NIQ. In response, Swedish pharmacy chain Apotek Hjärtat has restricted those aged 15 or younger from purchasing certain skincare products due to concerns that they affect long-term skin health. However, it remains unclear why children are interested in products designed to preserve youth when they already possess it. 


One theory could be the cuteness effect. The skincare products they’re shopping for (Bubble, Drunk Elephant, Brazilian Bum Bum) all have one thing in common – super cute packaging in even cuter mini formats. It might seem superficial, but the way most of us shop is. And it’s not the first time kurb appeal has influenced younger generations to experiment with products beyond their years. The colourful aesthetic and ‘taste the rainbow’ charm of vapes have caused a spike in vaping across teenage audiences.

Gen Alpha Beauty

So, while the ten-year-olds out there are perfecting their multi-step skincare routine, just as many millennials are embracing an almost schoolgirl aesthetic. Case in point: 2024's bow trend. These adults are escaping the polycrisis and finding comfort in rekindling childhood experiences through play. Barbie led the way by encouraging kids to pretend to play as doctors and lawyers, but now thanks to social media, it seems their profession of choice is ‘influencer’. For the millennials out there, you may remember this cross-culture contamination in the early noughties, where kids shopped for Playboy bedrooms and Juicy Couture tracksuits, while adults obsessed over Hello Kitty. Did someone say Freaky Friday?! 

Drunk elephant littles

Cuteness has clearly influenced purchase decisions for quite some time. However, in recent years this tactic has been shown to have adverse effects on younger consumers. Brands looking to use cute influence responsibly should proactively educate consumers and initiate conversations on ingredients, usage occasions and long-term effects. Still cute tho 💁‍♀️

Kid influencers

What’s going on?

Dove’s ‘#TheFaceof10' is a new global campaign that tackles young girls being exposed to adult skincare content. The brand partnered with celebs, creators, dermatologists, and self-esteem experts to help parents and caregivers navigate anti-ageing conversations with young girls.

Dove Face of 10

Somerset House presents CUTE, an exhibition exploring the irresistible force of cuteness in contemporary culture. The show brings together contemporary artworks, commissions, and cultural phenomena to examine the world’s embrace of cute culture and how it has become such an influential measure of our times.

Somerset house cute

Just Eat has launched its new brand campaign, ‘The Joy in Everyday’, which promotes the delivery app as more than just a weekend treat. The series of 20-second films featuring Wes Anderson-inspired characters showcase how Just Eat fits into people's lives beyond the stereotypical Friday night takeaway by representing real people and their experiences of food.

Just Eat

“Walking around the CUTE exhibition was eye-opening. We saw a lot of our childhood experiences again, but this time through a capitalist lens. Cuteness always felt trivialised or not taken seriously because of its ‘girliness’ but the reality is, it’s serious money. The ‘aww factor’ left us gooey-eyed — excited to play with this powerful tool for brands.”

Natalie & Chloe
The strategy team