The tech world let out a collective "Huh?" this week as
) revealed the nickname to its upcoming version of its Android
) branding of Mac OS X versions after various wild cats, Google
nicknames each major Android release after a confectionary treat.
And following in the alphabetical footsteps of Cupcake, Donut,
Eclair, FroYo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and
Jelly Bean is...KitKat?
Breaking the pattern of generic desserts, Google has opted to go
"full trademark" and dub Android 4.4 with the name of a candy owned
(OTCMKTS:NSRGY) and licensed by
) in the United States.
The move reportedly came as a surprise not only for the public --
who, for years, held the assumption that the Android "K" release
was going to be nicknamed Key Lime Pie -- but also among Google
staffers themselves. Upon revealing the name, Google's Director of
Android Global Partnerships John Lagerling
told the BBC
, "We kept calling the name Key Lime Pie internally and even when
we referred to it with partners."
But the decision to form a partnership with the Nestle brand was
also unexpected and spur of the moment. While the possibility had
been discussed for roughly a year, Nestle Executive Vice President
of Marketing Patrice Bula said, "We decided within the hour to say
let's do it."
Along with the KitKat nickname, Nestle will hold a promotional
event in 19 countries wherein 50 million KitKat bars will bear the
lime green Android mascot on the wrapper and give customers a
chance to win a Nexus 7 tablet and Google Play gift cards. A giant
KitKat-themed statue of the Android mascot was erected on the
Mountain View campus lawn -- standing beside the jelly bean and
gingerbread men -- to cement the co-branding effort.
Although the partnership seems like it couldn't have occurred
without one side paying out the nose for licensing, Lagerling
revealed, "This is not a money-changing-hands kind of deal."
So, why has Google, a company so popular that its name doubles as a
verb, entered into a deal that attempts to boost its brand
Considering the dearth of desserts that start with the letter K,
everyone saw the "Key Lime Pie" nickname as a foregone conclusion.
However, Lagerling and his team allegedly thought the name didn't
have enough cachet to catch on with the public.
"We realized that very few people actually know the taste of a key
lime pie," he said. "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?'"
Sometimes corporate synergy comes just that easy.
But Google, of all companies, should know how risky such a branding
effort can be. After all,
we know how poorly it worked out
earlier this year when the Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn film
was released, a movie that's rated a very generous 35% on Rotten
Tomatoes. Using its campus as the setting for a weak
slobs-versus-snobs comedy that felt at least five to 10 years too
late, Google only ended up looking lame and out of touch in the
Admittedly, the KitKat candy is far more timeless than the allure
of the Frat Pack, but by effectively commercializing Android,
Google risks alienating a very strong-willed and opinionated user
base who greets every blatantly soulless ad campaign with a sneer
and a cutting remark.
And already, that's begun to happen.
Upon the KitKat announcement, comment sections began overflowing
with snide jokes about how a segmented chocolate candy underscores
Android's fragmentation. Others mused that they couldn't wait for
) version of Android. And some pondered what Google wouldn't have
done for a
But quips aside, Google abandoning a generic naming scheme for a
trademark brand rubs many users the wrong way, especially when that
brand's holding company is decidedly non-tech. For quite a few
folks, the KitKat-themed imagery that accompanies the Android
operating system just feels...wrong. For them, an Android mascot
stylized as a wedge of pie is far more preferable to a segmented
candy bar slapped with a corporate logo.
Unfortunately, for an operating system that's purportedly "open,"
Android lost much of its "openness" with this deal.
However, like many strange and off-putting ad campaigns, the KitKat
nickname definitely has people talking, and even with a reported 1
billion activations worldwide and a market share that trumps Apple,
(BBRY), the Android brand gets even more publicity and recognition
with this move.
Until now, casual Android users didn't pay much attention to their
operating system's nickname, let alone the version number. But
they'll certainly have an idea once the KitKat promotions are
underway. Google clearly sees that the gains from an instantly
recognizable Android version far outweigh the sarcastic quips from
And it certainly helps that KitKats are damn delicious.
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