Imagine if you will a meeting room full of highly successful, respected and influential retail buyers. They’re beginning to regret allowing you into the room before you’ve even had the chance to give them your sales pitch. All have the same look on their faces and it’s not a good one; a mixture of horror and disbelief. They’re all staring at your opening presentation image, a picture of the character your new gift range is based around. With a clearing of his throat, one hesitantly asks a question.
“What the **** is that?” says the angry red faced gentleman.
Not the start you were hoping for but nether-less you didn’t get the title of “Barnsley Best Blagger, 2002” for nothing.
“That sir, is Domo Kun”.
“Domo, what now?”
“Domo Kun” you confidently repeat. Keeping smiling the voice in your head says. Don’t let them smell your fear.
“Again” now his patience is visibly wearing thin “What is it?”
The History of Domo Kun
Domo-kun originally appeared in a series of short stop-motion sketches on 22nd December 1998 on Japanese TV to mark the 10th anniversary of NHK’s satellite broadcasting. The name “Domo” was born during the second episode of his show, when the TV announcer said “dōmo, konnichiwa” which is a standard greeting often translated as “Well, hello there!”, but which can also be interpreted as “Hello, Domo”. The kun suffix on “Domo-kun” is a Japanese honorific sometimes used with young males.
Described as looking like a “poo with an angry face” by my partner, some of the cute little guys character traits include passing gas repeatedly when nervous and a strong fear of apples which he blames for the death of the rest of his species (this suddenly got very dark). He’s also noted as being oviparous, which Google informs me, means he comes from an egg. He lives in an underground cave with a wise old rabbit called Mr. Usaji, like you do. Perfect gift shop material, you must agree.
Despite the comedy, tongue in cheek tone of this article there really is an entire merchandise market built around Domo Kun. You can go online now and buy Dom Kun plush toys, slippers. mugs and t-shirts. Domo was introduced to English-speaking audiences when a image of a couple Domo Kuns chasing kittens appeared on satirical website Fark in 2002. It quickly become a meme with it’s own catchphrase which is not something Gift Shop Hub can’t repeat without blushing.
Amazing the meme created a market of Domo related gifts that could be found in many mainstream chains. (Quick reference: A meme is an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations). Domo Kuns rapid rise to fame peaked when he was used by American chain store Target as their official Halloween mascot, appearing in posters and displays nationally in 2008. Since then 7-Eleven, TokyoPop, Urban Outfitters and Hot Topic have carried Domo merchandise. You can even get an official DC licensed Domo Kun/Batman mash up, truly crossing over from meme to mainstream.
The moral of the story is that it’s hard to second guess what will be popular or not. How a strange, fluffy, angry brown creature can suddenly become the next big thing. That a virally transmitted cultural symbol can creep into the establishment despite being the very thing it set out to ridicule. The thought that ideas can be mimicked and distorted so far away from their origins they become something completely new. How trends flux and grow, twist and turn, forever bursting into the light only to burn just as quickly away. That somewhere, out there, a child’s best friend is open mouthed brown monster who dislikes apples and farts when he is scared.