Google Says 'Break Me Off a Piece of That' KitKat Marketing
Google is coming out with the next version of its Android mobile operating system. Yawn. But wait... Google's calling it KitKat? Well, that has the Internet all a buzz. Tuesday's news of the next version of Android, 4.4, revealed via a Google+ page of Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android and Chrome, set talk in motion. Tech bloggers, marketers and branding experts sought to examine the ups and downs of the unexpected announcement.
The news comes as a surprise in a number of ways. Android fans expected the next version would be named Key Lime Pie. Google watchers also had grown accustomed to a generic candy house of version tags such as Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo (frozen yogurt), Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean.
Surely the big K would be generic? Using a trademark for an Android release name is a first for Google. This would make Android 4.4 carrying the name of a candy owned by Nestle and licensed by Hershey in the United States.
A popular reaction by comment posters was "Sweet" and "We love KitKat" (the candy). Others found it hard to swallow, thinking it was a prank, wondering why Google would get involved with a commercial brand name.
For the Fun of It
Would Google's generic branding scheme now be a thing of the past? They worried if this was going to be the beginning of the end, out of an innocent candy castle and into a cave of product placements.
Google's take on the move, nonetheless, indicates the deal was one where no money changed hands. In an interview with the BBC, John Lagerling, director of Android global partnerships, said the motive was to do something "fun and unexpected." Besides, he said, not everyone knows the taste of a key lime pie. The choice was serendipitous.
Google keeps KitKat snacks in the kitchen for late-night coders, and somebody said, why not call the release KitKat. Phone calls with Nestle and the two sides meeting during February's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona finalized the deal. A major co-marketing blitz was to get under way.
Nestle plans to deliver more than 50 million special bars showing the Android mascot to shops in 19 markets, from Australia to the United States. For the lucky, the KitKat bar might contain a winning ticket for a new Nexus 7 tablet or Google Play (the online store) credits.
The Android Web site carries the word that "We're naming the next version of Android after one of our favorite chocolate treats, KitKat," and says to look for specially branded KitKat bars that offer a chance to win the prizes.
Kept Under Wraps
At a time when mobile-world leaks, sneak peeks and educated rumors dominate the technology media, the other surprise was that Google and Nestle managed all those months to keep expectations of Key Lime Pie going.
Since that KitKat candy bar is delicious, and it has been chosen as the name of the next Android version, what can be bad? Advertising consultants warn that name-brand hookups can be win-wins or not, depending on circumstance.
In theory, were the 4.4 release be especially prone to malware or other problems, KitKat, the candy, could experience fallout. If Nestle were ever to find itself at the center of a public relations issue, then Google may experience fallout.
Hail to Ecosystem
Both sides, however, could swim very nicely through a co-marketing channel shark-free. On Nestle's side, KitKat is a loved brand of iconic proportions. On Google's side, Pichai reported in his Google+ post on Tuesday that there have been more than 1 billion activations of Android-based devices worldwide. One might argue that with that kind of strength, Android can survive various ups and downs.
"All this Android innovation is driving tremendous ecosystem momentum and I'm excited to share that together we've now passed 1 billion Android device activations," Pichai said. "Huge thanks to the entire Android community from the hardware manufacturers, chip makers and carriers to the developers and content creators to all of you -- our Android users around the world -- for making this possible."