Give Me a…

Once again Lior earns brownie points for tossing me the subject of a post. He’s concerned about Google’s new foray into cross-marketing: both that they’ve done it at all, and that they’re doing it with a Swiss company instead of keeping the $$$ in the US.

Lior and I disagree. Of course we do. If we agreed, I’d just post the rant he sent me and be done for the day…

For those of you who don’t follow obsessively follow Android news, the story is that Google surprised the heck out of the tech world yesterday with their announcement of the code name for the next version of the Android OS, due out next month. Techies had been assuming for months that the name would be “Key Lime Pie”. Google, however, went with “KitKat” and has a full cross-marketing agreement in place with the candy bar.

Let’s take the easy one first. The Kit Kat name is, as Lior notes, owned by Nestle, a Swiss company. However, Google’s licensing agreement is with Hershey, an American company that owns the brand in the U.S. So those dollars are nominally staying in the country. On the flip side, there really isn’t any such thing as a national company: with Apple saving big bucks on taxes by routing funds through Ireland, Microsoft buying Nokia’s phone business, and on and on, it’s pretty clear that one country isn’t big enough to hold a tech giant. For that matter, Google Zurich is “Google’s largest engineering office in Europe, the Middle East and Africa”, so you could also think of this deal as being between a pair of Swiss companies.

As for the larger concern, the commercialization of the Android brand, frankly I’m surprised it’s taken this long. Google has passed up a heck of a lot of previous opportunities:

  • Cupcake – The first dessert-themed release and the first public release. Nobody knew it was going to be the start of a tradition at the time, so making a big corporate tie-in would have taken away from the real core message: “Hey, Android is here!”
  • Donut – Don’t even try to tell me that Dunkin’ Donuts wouldn’t have been a good match… Actually, it wouldn’t have been a good match. DD is much better known on the East Coast than the West, and Google would want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible while trying to get global traction for the OS.
  • Éclair – Now we’re starting to get into territory where a cross-brand might have made some sense. There aren’t any well-known eclair manufacturers, though, so a different dessert would have been necessary. How about Eskimo Pie, also a name owned by Nestle?
  • Froyo – The frozen yoghurt market is rather fragmented; I’m not sure Google could have found a single purveyor with the kind of national reach they would have wanted. Fortune cookie, anyone? Wonton Food, Inc. probably would have jumped at the chance.
  • Gingerbread – Again, not a lot of strong national brand identification. Hmm. Gingersnaps? Gelato? Not much better. They might have wanted to sit this one out from a marketing perspective.
  • Honeycomb – Post probably would have killed for the chance at this one. Too bad the cereal isn’t known as a dessert. On the other hand, considering how short Honeycomb’s useful lifespan was, positioning it as a breakfast might have helped.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich – Bay Area techies would have screamed with joy if there had been a deal in place with It’s-It. Too bad the rest of the country would have said “Huh? What’s that?” Mmm, It’s-It.
  • Jelly Bean – Jelly Belly, anyone? Or if Google wanted to boost their appeal in the UK, how about Jelly Baby? Ah for the lost opportunity for Dr. Who offering up Nexus devices. Or the really big name: Jello. Need I say more?

Moving on…

As I said, I’m not that concerned about Google tying themselves to Hershey on this release. Competing on the merits of the OS has taken Android about as far as possible against Apple. Now, with Apple apparently poised to release a lower-cost iPhone, Google needs to start raising Android’s profile with the non-techie public. “Like an iPhone, but cheaper” isn’t going to fly. “Tasty” will.

That said, Google, please don’t tie in every release to a corporate sponsor. No more than every other release, OK? Do that, and I’ll look forward to Lollipop/Lemon Bar/Lemon Meringue Pie just as eagerly as I look forward to Mounds/Mars Bar/M&M.

Oh, and how’s about you stick with products whose owners spell them consistently? I’m not looking forward to the next year’s religious wars over whether it’s “Kit Kat” or “KitKat”.

7 thoughts on “Give Me a…

  1. Okay, non-techie waving his hand? Over here in the corner? Yes, thanks.
    Are you having us on? Are you freakin’ kidding?
    Unless this is an elaborate gag (and I can’t see if you’re smiling), Android is considering identifying itself with- well, let’s just say, one of the world’s more controversial companies. Actually, I’d say, one of the world’s most loathed companies, right up there with Monsanto, in terms of a branding problem. Now, I don’t know how many people identify… what is it? Kit-kat?…. with Nestle, but, given the power of the interweb, it won’t take long for the word to spread that Android is throwing in with the guy who made the smarmy video informing the unenlightened (that is, most of us) that our uninformed belief that access to water (yes; water. As in, necessary to support life?) is a human right, is an EXTREMIST position. And, you know what happens to EXTREMISTS, don’t you? Yeah, that guy. Nice suit, though.
    So, nice gag, if that’s what it was. Donuts? Why the hell not? But if they’re serious, and you’re not pulling our appendage, This looks like the dumbest move since….. well, since whatever that early word recognition app was, that Apple released in the 90s, and that just made them look dumb, not evil.

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    • So, first: not a joke. The link in paragraph 3 will take you to the candy’s website.

      Most loathed? I thought that was Microsoft… Seriously, though, from what I’ve seen in the past couple of hours of research, Nestle may be up there in Microsoft territory, but Monsanto is still way out in front.

      The water thing I can’t really get a handle on. There’s a definite shortage of balanced reporting, and the various varieties of spin are making me very dizzy.

      Is it going to hurt Google? Honestly, probably not appreciably. If they can survive all of the stories about sharing everything they see with the NSA, most Americans aren’t going to get bent out of shape over an indirect connection to possible human-rights issues outside of the U.S. I don’t see this as being anywhere near as damaging to the company as the Newton fiasco was to Apple.

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  2. Glad to have helped give you fun stuff to write about. Answering John above, have you seen Appelites and Googelites have a conversation? I am Israeli and seen more cordial conversation in the current peace process … 🙂 Tech zealots ARE extremists, just ones that throw like girls, and are too busy tweeting and vineing, so there is less collateral damage … 🙂

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    • Well put, Lior. Techie religious wars go *way* back. I suspect you’re right that most of the venom to be directed G’s way over the Nestle tie will come from the Apple crowd, with the “pure open source” crew running a close second.

      But as I said, I don’t think Google will suffer appreciably. I’m not sure they’ll really gain anything by it either. I don’t think it’s going to drive a lot of people to buy Nexus devices; most of the rest of Google’s Android-related income is indirect. The benefits will start coming in when third-parties (i.e. Samsung) start releasing new devices with KitKat.

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      • yippy, new devices should come with complementary KitKat bars for pointing at Apple folks, going nah nah you cant have any, crunch munch crunch.

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      • I don’t know, man. Maybe it should be the other way around: buy a candy bar, get a phone. They could do it like collectible figures where you can’t tell which model is in the package, so you have to buy a bunch to get the character you want; in this case, you have to buy a bunch to get the phone and carrier you want!

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  3. Pingback: New Toys | Koi Scribblings

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