The Hello Kitty brand rose to greater prominence during the late 1990s. At that time, several celebrities, such as Mariah Carey, had adopted Hello Kitty as a fashion statement. Newer products featuring the character can be found in a large variety of American department stores.
The Dutch artist Dick Bruna, creator of Miffy, has suggested that Hello Kitty is a copy of Miffy (in Dutch: Nijntje), being rendered in a similar style, stating disapprovingly in an interview for the British paper The Daily Telegraph:
- 'That,' he says darkly, 'is a copy [of Miffy], I think. I don't like that at all. I always think, "No, don't do that. Try to make something that you think of yourself".'
In May 2008, Japan named Hello Kitty the ambassador of Japanese tourism in both China and Hong Kong, which are two places where the character is exceptionally popular among children and young women. This marked the first time Japan's tourism ministry had appointed a fictional character to the role. Dr Sharon Kinsella, a lecturer at Oxford University on Japanese sociology, called the selection of Hello Kitty "a bit farcical;" "as if a dumbed-down cultural icon ... can somehow do something significant to alter the gnarly and difficult state of China-Japan relations."
Hello Kitty's popularity began waning in Japan before the year 2000. In 2002, Hello Kitty lost her place as the top-grossing character in Japan in the Character Databank popularity chart and has never recovered. In a 2010 survey, she was in third place behind Anpanman and Pikachu from Pokémon. In 2010, the New York Times described Hello Kitty's characterization as "not compelling enough to draw many fans" and wrote that analysts called the characterization "weak." They also said that Hello Kitty not having a mouth has dampened her success as an animated TV character.