Carst and Walker
Kit Kat Japan

The weird and wonderful world of Kit Kat in Japan

Cherry Blossom, baked potato, soy sauce, fruit parfait… just some of the weird flavours of Kit Kat candy in Kit Kat-crazy Japan. Already one of the best-selling chocolate candy bars in the world, Nestlé’s creative flavour development and marketing of its only-in-Japan products (some 19 unique flavours for Kit Kat) have made it the No 1 brand confectionery brand in Japan.

Besides the regular chocolate variety, which must seem mundane to Japanese, Nestlé has come up with variations that reflect the local produce and palate of each region. There are some staple flavours like miso, soy sauce and green tea, but the list doesn’t end there.

Kit Kat varieties now range from yubari melon and baked corn from Hokkaido island to green beans and cherries from Tohoku in northeastern Japan, to yuzu fruit and red potatoes from Kyushu island at the southern-most tip of the country. The Kanto region, including Tokyo, contributed the sweet potato, blueberry and kinako (soybean) flavours.

The strategy started some four years ago with a handful of flavours but has escalated into a national phenomenon unique to Japan, notes an AdAge report.

“Nestlé really understands how to build unique value into the relationship their brands enjoy with their customer,” said Tokyo-based Michael McLaren, McCann Worldgroup’s regional director, Asia/Pacific, and CEO, Japan, which works on Nestlé brands such as Nescafe in that market.

“From the unique and fanciful local flavours on Kit Kat to the powerful functional benefits of [plant-based chemical] polyphenol in Nescafe Excella, they are always working to find a way to change the consumer value equation and drive deeper brand loyalty,” said McLaren, a fan of wasabi-flavoured white chocolate Kit Kats. “They are truly delicious.”

Each flavour is only sold in the region for which it was created, a distribution strategy that has turned limited edition Kit Kat packages into coveted souvenirs for domestic travellers.

Kit Kats are also a popular present in a country where gift-giving remains an important ritual. In this regard, even though Japan has perhaps the world’s most sophisticated digital-media markets, Nestlé has been very marketing savvy by taking a low-tech route for Kit Kat: the post office.

The Japanese translation of Kit Kat – “Kitto Katsu” means “surely win” – and Nestlé has paired this with the tradition of sending students good luck wishes before they take tough higher-education entrance exams.

It has partnered with Japan’s postal service to create “Kit Kat Mail,” a postcard-like product sold only at the post office that can be mailed to students as an edible good-luck charm.

Nestlé decorates post offices with a cherry blossom theme that coincides with Japan’s annual exam period. It also stocks a sales point in each post office, a move that became possible when Japan’s postal service was privatised in 2007. This is a great distribution channel for Kit Kat because there is no competition, unlike in convenience stores or supermarkets.

The strategy earned Nestlé and its ad agency, JWT, Tokyo, the Media Grand Prix in 2009 at the 56th Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Many of the special flavours are only introduced for a limited time to entice consumers to try something new while they can, then quickly taken off the market. Excess stock is collected and used to create “Happy Bags” sold during major gift-giving periods in Japan, such as New Year.

KitKat Gallery
View this gallery of weird Kit Kat flavours in Japan

Source: AdAge & CBS

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