Google™ Strikes Bizarre Licensing Deal With Nestlé® To Name Next Android™ Kit Kat®

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Google has apparently struck a wild licensing deal with Nestlé to use the name ‘KitKat’ for its next version of Android. Though the announcement of the name by Google’s Sundar Pichai this morning struck off an immediate wave of commentary, it seems to go deeper than just a name.

If you visit Google’s ‘about Android‘ page, you’ll see a full-on Kit Kat bar (the company uses ‘Kit Kat’, not ‘KitKat’ to describe the candy) with an Android-themed wrapper. A link to ‘see what you’ve won’ leads you to the U.S. site for Kit Kat bars. This is an extremely odd pairing for a tech company and a candy firm.

We’ve reached out to Google for more information on exactly what the deal is here and it confirmed that no money changed hands between the two companies. This is apparently a like-for-like cross-promotion deal.

The contest will place Nexus 7 vouchers and Google Play credit in participating Kit Kat bars. There will also be a few actual Android-shaped bars in some markets.

Interestingly, the link on the Android site takes you to Hershey’s site, even though Nestlé manufactures Kit Kat bars in most of the world. This stems from an old licensing deal between Hershey and Rowntree (which was acquired by Nestlé), in which Hershey maintained the ability to license the name Kit Kat in the U.S. This has led to a ton of confusion about whether Hershey or Nestlé is behind the deal.

A BBC report today quotes John Lagerling, director of Android global partnerships as saying that “this is not a money-changing-hands kind of deal,” and that it was about doing something fun and unexpected. Lagerling also says that the previously considered Key Lime Pie was nixed because they felt that many people might not know what Key Lime Pie tastes like.

“One of the snacks that we keep in our kitchen for late-night coding are KitKats. And someone said: ‘Hey, why don’t we call the release KitKat?’

“We didn’t even know which company controlled the name, and we thought that [the choice] would be difficult. But then we thought well why not, and we decided to reach out to the Nestle folks.”

Mr Lagerling said he had made a “cold call” to the switchboard of Nestle’s UK advertising agency at the end of November to propose the tie-up.

The next day, the Swiss firm invited him to take part in a conference call. Nestle confirmed the deal just 24 hours later.

“Very frankly, we decided within an hour to say let’s do it,” Patrice Bula, Nestle’s marketing chief told the BBC.

The obvious benefits for Google include massive exposure in convenience stores and supermarkets. While Android devices big to small will bear the Kit Kat moniker, resulting in a swath of brand recognition boosting for the candy maker.

That being said, Google is a company powered by advertisers and brands. Regardless of what intentions it has to make ‘great’ products (which it does and has), its motivations regarding the balance of user privacy and profitability will always be at the forefront of discussions about Android. I’m not so sure it’s such a great idea for a company like that to be toying with this kind of cross-promotion oddity. But what do I know, I’m just a line of data in an advertiser’s targeting matrix.

Nestlé will produce over 50 million of those aforementioned Kit Kat bars with the Android mascot on them. Most Google employees apparently only learned about the news once a statue was unveiled at Google HQ. The statue? A giant Android mascot made of a Kit Kat bar.

H/T Mike Hay for the title, Photo: Sundar Pichai

Update: If you’re interested, the statue was done by Themendous sculpture shop. You can see an interview we did with them last year here. Here’s a behind-the-scenes pic.