There is a candy bar in called Kit Kat that consists of attached wafer cookie sticks covered in milk chocolate. To eat one, you break the wafer cookie sticks apart and eat each one individually.

The candy bar was created by Rowntree’s of York, United Kingdom. In 1988, Nestle acquired Rowntree and now produces the candy worldwide.

In the US, you might find a few variations, such as dark chocolate, extra creamy, white chocolate, and things you would ordinarily expect in a candy bar.

So far, so normal.

But as Kit Kat expanded around the globe, a funny thing happened.

The Japanese people LOVE Kit Kat bars.

And the Japanese people LOVE different, strange and exotic flavors of Kit Kat.

There have been more than 300 limited-edition seasonal and regional flavors of Kit Kats produced in Japan since 2000.

Some examples include:

  • Custard Pudding
  • Sake
  • Green Tea
  • Melon & Cheese
  • Shrimp (yes, SHRIMP)
  • Cough Drop
  • Ginger Ale
  • Citrus
  • Wasabi
  • Red Beans
  • Apple Vinegar
  • Pistachio & Grapefruit
  • Strawberry Maple
  • Butter
  • Grilled Potato
  • Soybean
  • Sweet Sake
  • Chestnut
  • Plum Wine
  • Corn
  • Soy Sauce
  • Miso (fish paste)
  • Peach
  • Grape
  • Strawberry Tiramisu
  • Tokyo Banana
  • Rum Raisin & Nuts
  • Strawberry Cheesecake & Nuts
  • Sweet Potato

How did Kit Kat become so popular in Japan?

Marketing, for one thing. The company partnered with the Japan Post to sell the bar in 20,000 post offices.

That campaign encouraged associations of the product’s name to the coincidental cognate Kitto Katsu, which roughly translates to, “You will surely win.”

Nestlé and the Japan Post launched the campaign in 2009, allowing people to write messages and mail the chocolate bars from 20,000 post offices. The packages included a space to write a note of encouragement and affix a stamp.

The promotional packages were sold out within a month.  That campaign won the Media Grand Prix in 2010’s Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

When you have a fun, great-tasting product that happens to have a name that is associated with the local term for good luck, you can’t go wrong.

Lessons learned: Take great care in naming your product. When Chevy introduced the Chevy Nova to Mexico, the car was a complete dud. “Nova” in Spanish means, “No, go.”

But Kit Kat in Japanese had the opposite effect, sounding like their term for good luck.

Do you plan to take your product to non-English speaking markets? Then you’ll want to think about these things ahead of time.

Also, if you can choose a name that already contains positive associations, do it.

Obviously, “Good Luck Candy Bar” is likely to outsell, “You Will Die Candy Bar.” You get the point.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, and to let your customers have what they want. Would you think a fish paste tasting candy bar would sell? Probably not, and yet it does.

Even if your product is information, you can tailor that information to different markets. Do you teach marketing? Create courses, especially for different types of professionals, different types of business, and different countries where the businesses are located.

Do you coach? Tailor your coaching services to certain types of professionals, or problems, or anything else that sets you apart from the crowd.

And find the hidden message.

Who would think a candy bar would be associated with getting good grades in college, graduating with honors, getting that top job, and having a fantastic life?

It’s a significant promise for a little candy bar, but why not? People love a good excuse to indulge, so help them find that excuse.

Of course, Kit Kat never PROMISES good test scores, only good ‘luck,’ which is extremely hard to measure.

And the concept of ‘luck’ is something some cultures cling to much more than others. Would a good luck candy bar do will in the US, for example? Maybe not.

Always tailor your message to your market.

Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to expand your thinking, your product, and your market. Who knows – you could be selling 300 versions of your product, too!


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