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I can’t remember the last time I had a Kit Kat candy bar, but I’ve thought of eating one at least five times in the last half hour.
This, more than anything, speaks to the not-so-subtle marketing brilliance of Google’s decision to name the next version of Android after the candy with a jingle I now can’t seem to forget.
For anyone following the naming pattern of Android upgrades, the KitKat news was a big, crunchy surprise. Conventional wisdom suggested that Google would name the next version of Android the decidedly brand-less “Key Lime Pie.” Dubbing it “KitKat” takes Google’s naming scheme in a different — and potentially more lucrative — direction.
But let’s consider how huge of a deal this is for Nestle (and also Hershey, which controls the Kit-Kat branding in the U.S). By slapping together Android and Kit Kat, Nestle is giving its brand a prominent, unavoidable place in not only Google’s eventual unveiling of Android 4.4 but also in the daily vocabulary of countless Android users — or at least the ones who know what “Android 4.4 KitKat” actually refers to.
It’s also ensuring that every time a tech blogger writes about Android 4.4 from this point on, they’re going to make a whole lot of people think about Nestle’s brand of chocolate.
In a way, the move reminds me a lot of The Truman Show, where characters find themselves actively looking for ways to squeeze product pitches into their daily conversations. With Android 4.4, we’re all going to be doing the jobs for Nestle’s marketers for them.
But as absurd as that is, what’s more mind-boggling is that Nestle didn’t pay Google a single penny for the placement. “I can confirm that no money was exchanged,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat by e-mail earlier today. (We can only assume, then, Google was paid in Kit Kats). The spokesperson also confirmed that it was Google, not Nestle, that initiated the deal.
So, what does Google get out of this? In a tit-for-kat trade, Nestle plans to slap the Android branding on its Kit Kat packaging in 19 countries — including Brazil, the U.S., India, and Germany.
In short, neither company could have asked for a better deal.
But as sensational and unexpected as Google’s move is, it’s not without it precedent. When Motorola released the Droid back in 2009, it also had to license use of the name from Lucasfilm, which owned the trademark though the Star Wars franchise. The deal then reached whole different level of absurdity when Motorola released the Motorola Droid R2-D2, which is exactly what it sounds like.
So, no — Google’s move isn’t entirely new, but it does set a strange, if somewhat scary, precedent for the tech world, which could take Google’s cue and make branded software releases a rule rather than an exception.
Now, excuse me while I go buy a Kit Kat.