In one swift, bold move, Kit Kat entered the Free Range arena in full throttle by branding the new Android phone, putting itself far outside its traditional marketing box. Kit Kat put its toe in the free-range waters before, challenging Oreo to a public game of TicTacToe, (reinforcing its unique form, with Kit Kat being the “X”), and taking the chance of coming out the loser.
Rumored to have accepted the deal within an hour for no remuneration, Nestle’s chief marketer didn’t waver on the decision: “When you try to lead a new way of communicating and profiling a brand you always have a higher risk than doing something much more traditional. You can go round the swimming pool 10 times wondering if the water is cold or hot or you say: ‘Let’s jump’”.
Traditional CPG helicopter brand leaders would be quick to believe this would be a hasty, high-risk move for a brand as big as Kit Kat, and would likely advise a more controllable method of marketing.
Simon Myers, a partner at the consultancy Prophet, shares this perspective: “If your brand is hooked up with another, you inevitably become associated with that other brand, for good or ill. If that brand or business has some reputational issues that emerge, it would be naive to think as a brand owner that your good name, your brand equity, would not be affected.”
This thinking, while strategically sound, prudent and smart for the pre-digital age, is exactly what keeps our established brands from being truly relevant and inspiring to today’s consumers. The evidence of Mr. Myers’ Prophecy-come-true can be found in commentary and posts along the lines of Nestle being “pure evil” and not a fit for Google, which would be enough to make most big brand leaders pull the plug or come out defending themselves. But Kit Kat stands strong and will likely set the stage for more to come as the brand finds its free-range footing.
What will make this a success for Kit Kat, is that the move reinforces something that is central to Kit Kat’s authenticity: its unique form. On the surface, this may be a surprise endorsement for Kit Kat, but with a powerful, completely unexpected way to reinforce its quality and form. Kit Kat 4.4 is highlighted as “Beautifully crafted for a multi-sensory experience … with adjustable orientation (portrait or landscape) … global coverage … only 10 millimeters thick … and available in 2MegaBite, 4MegaBite or ChunkyBite.”
By leveraging an authentic quality (vs. trying to be claim a quality that a brand does not have inherent rights to), the boundaries of where that brand can go are widely expanded.
The move establishes Kit Kat as relevant, humorous and bold, puts Kit Kat in a powerful position to move into the new age of consumer branding, one that takes chances, navigates by its authentic core, and embodies a high dose of emotional and relevant provocation.