Android 4.4 KitKat

Has Nestlé pulled off a coup in the naming of Android 4.4 KitKat?

When Grocer Towers received the news that Google and Nestlé had teamed up to brand the next version of the Android operating system Android KitKat, one of my colleagues suggested it might be a mistimed April Fool announcement.

Not an unreasonable reaction – the move is so off the wall, so unexpected and yet such a fantastic fit.

For the uninitiated, Google has a history of naming its Android OS versions after sweet treats. Starting with Android 1.5 Cupcake in 2009 and proceeding through the alphabet to Donut, Éclair, Froyo and, most recently, Jelly Bean. Observers were expecting the next version to begin with K, but most bets were on Key Lime Pie. Apparently, a cold call to Google HQ raised the suggestion of Kit Kat and within 24 hours the deal had been agreed.

A deal that, in the words of a Nestlé spokesman, “did not involve any money changing hands” (though I would be surprised if the coders at Google ever go wanting for a Kit Kat).

On the face of it, it seems like a win-win for Google and Nestlé, but I asked some friendly marketing experts for their views:

Given that it hadn’t cost Nestlé a franc, it was particularly impressive, said Claire Nuttall of Thrive. “For years, brands have had to pay to get connected with high-traffic channels and audiences, yet this is free. It will be interesting to see how both brands capitalise on this and what breakthroughs it will deliver.”

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It was a view echoed by Don Williams, chief creative officer at Pi Global: “Nestlé will instantly put their brand into the consciousness of over a billion consumers without, apparently, money changing hands, and Android gets its brand all over one of the world’s biggest and best-loved confectionery brands… What’s not to like?”

Quite a bit, according to Robert Metcalfe, MD of Richmond Towers: “Linking brands should add value. This doesn’t. There’s nothing that makes the association between the two appropriate: no synergy, no added value. Thank goodness no money changed hands.”

While I feel a lot more positive about the partnership than Robert, I do reckon any benefits from the activity will be fairly short lived. At the end of the day, how many consumers care or even notice what version of an operating system their phone or tablet is running?

I had to think twice what version mine is, and I’m a die-hard geek: the guy who had a ZX81 (look it up, kids); played Dungeons & Dragons when most 14-year-olds were chasing girls; and follows tech news the way some follow football.

I’m assuming the majority of users don’t know which precise version of Android they are running, if they even have it – and why should they as long as their device does its job?

Kit Kat bars will run a tie-in Android promotion

Kit Kat bars will run a tie-in Android promotion

Obviously, both parties have already considered this and I’m sure they understand the branding is a short-term boon – although Nestle will be running an on-pack promo themed around the tie-up that will extend its visibility.

In the meantime, the marketing teams at Google and Nestlé can bask in the glow of a job well done and enjoy the thousands of headlines, tweets and blog posts their brands have featured in today.

And I’m sure the clamour has got other marketing teams thinking about potential fmcg/operating system tie-ups.

The latest version of the Microsoft OS is Windows 8 – perhaps Mondelez should see how Microsoft feels about ‘Windows Daim’ when it comes time to update it.

As for Apple, its upcoming OS will be called Mavericks, so perhaps a suitable follow-up would be Heineken’s tequila-flavoured beer. OS X Desperados would have a nice ring to it, though I think it’s a shame Apple abandoned the feline-themed OS naming that gave us Tiger and Snow Leopard. OS X Whiskas, anyone?