Manufactured Luck: KitKat in Japan

For those people who follow the candy industry, the tale of the popularity of KitKats in Japan is a fairly well known phenomenon. The basic story goes like this:

  • KitKat sounds roughly like the Japanese phrase “kitto katsu”
  • “kitto Katsu” is apparently a phrase that students tell each other prior to exams.
  • Parents, who want to wish their children well during exam times, purchase KitKats for the kids as a form of “good luck” charm.
  • Nestle, noticing the trend of upward sales around the national exams, ensures new flavors are available around these times.
  • Profits galore for Nestle!!

It’s a nice little story that has been mentioned repeatedly over the internet . It is completely believable and quite possibly…not true.

AlphaMale has his own version of the story:

Year 1: Hotels in Tokyo began giving complementary KitKat bars to students who came to the city by the thousands to take the fiercely competitive university entrance exams. The KitKat was presented as a little “lucky charm”. Students were surprised and touched. They didn’t know the candy giveaway was sponsored by the manufacturer.

Year 2: The advertising agency behind this stealth campaign wangled some news stories (not ads) about the hotels’ candy giveaway. The reason for the stealth: Japanese young people are suspicious and scornful of advertising.

Year 3: Some ads began to appear. They didn’t look like ads. They were cute little stories about teachers, mothers, students and the lucky charm. The ads were fiction, but real Japanese moms began packing KitKats for their kids when they left home to take the exams.

While the author of the post offers no links to help reference the above actions, the marketing process is entirely plausible (and probable, in my opinion).

Technorati Tags: KitKats, Japan, Marketing


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