Nestlé’s Kit Kat is the No.1 candy brand in Japan, and over there, it comes in 19 variations. Staple flavors are green tea, soy sauce, and miso, but other choices mirror local products and regional tastes: yubari melon and baked corn from the island of Hokkaido; green beans and cherries from Tohoku; yuzu fruit and red potatoes from Kyushu island; sweet potato, blueberry and kinako (soybean) flavors from the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo.
Specific to the Japanese market, the three-year-old campaign is a national hit. The newest variety is wasabi-flavored white chocolate, but soy sauce is the winner nationwide.
Nestlé created a low-tech strategy in arguably the world’s most high-tech media market – anchoring the Kit Kat campaign in the post office. Together they designed "Kit Kat Mail," similar to a postcard, and promoted it as a good-luck charm that is edible – particularly geared towards students.
Kitto Katsu, which means, "surely win" – is Japanese for Kit Kat. It was a natural segue to support students with Kit Kat Mail as they take required higher education exams. Japan’s postal service, privatized in 2007, is the ideal partner. "The post office is a great distribution channel for Kit Kat, because there is no competition, unlike in convenience stores or supermarkets," according to Wataru Kageyama, president-CEO of JWT, Tokyo, in charge of the Kit Kat account in Japan. The Kit Kat brand remains a "popular present in a country where gift giving remains an important ritual," adds Kageyama.
A regional distribution strategy has flavors available for sale only where they were created, thus limited edition packages have become popular domestic souvenirs. Special flavors are available for a limited time, and remaining inventory is later sold as "Happy Bags" during popular gift-giving seasons like New Year’s.
Cherry blossoms decorate Japan’s post offices during annual exams – and kiosks dispense Kit Kat bars. Hmm – just like the United States? Give me a break…!