Welcome to the next chapter in naming rights deals: branded software releases.
Google announced today that the next version of its Android mobile operating system will be called "Android KitKat," after the chocolate brand that is owned by Nestle globally and controlled by Hershey Co. in the U.S. The moniker continues Android's tradition of giving sweet-themed names to Android releases, beginning with Android "Cupcake" in 2009, continuing in alphabetical order through "Jelly Bean."
But this is the first time Android has partnered with another corporate brand. Nestle spokeswoman Nina Kruchten said no money exchanged hands as part of the deal, which a Google spokeswoman confirmed. Google first approached Nestle about the opportunity, according to Google. "We couldn't imagine a better name for our Android K release than the tasty chocolate that's been a favorite among the team since the early days of Android," Marc Vanlerberghe, Director of Android Marketing, said in a statement.
Hershey and Nestle look to be using the deal to build their digital reputations. Promotion for the Hershey-branded mobile OS will include a tactic made famous by fictional chocolatier Willy Wonka: Hershey will distribute 50 million Kit Kat bars bearing the Android logo and a few of them will have winning tickets redeemable for a limited number of Nexus 7 tablets, as well as Google Play credits, according to a Google+ update from Android.
The deal gives Google some free publicity for Android, which will be featured on the packaging on the specially branded Kit Kat bars in 19 countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Germany, India and the U.K.
"We are proud and excited to have one of the world's leading mobile innovators pair up with one of America's favorite chocolate brands," said Jennifer Podhajsky, VP of U.S. chocolate for Hershey Co., said in a statement. "Google's choice to name their next Android platform release Kit Kat brings together two well-known icons from pop culture and technology and gives the classic jingle of 'Gimme a Break' a whole new meaning in the tech world."
Patrice Bula, head of marketing for Nestle, said in a statement that the deal enabled the brand to "build on its strong digital presence with interactive, creative branding campaigns."
Stewart Dryburgh, an assistant VP at Nestle who oversees global marketing for Kit Kat, said the fact that no money exchanged hands was an "acid test [for] how confident both parties were in each other." He said there is an "equal amount of equity to be shared out of this." The parties began negotiating in January and closed the deal at in Barcelona a couple months later at a Mobile World Congress meeting.
Kit Kat, he said, "is a brand that has a sense of humor" and the deal helps the marketer connect with its base of base of consumers, which he said skewed younger. "People take breaks online and Kit Kat is about breaks," he said. Asked if the pact might foreshadow future partnerships, he said that if things go well from the start it "opens other opportunities."
KitKat is the second and most significant Android update under latest Android boss Sundar Pichai. Mr. Pichai, who previously worked on Google's Chrome web browser and Google mobile apps, announced the branding deal in a post on his own Google+ page.
Android is the mobile OS market leader in the U.S. and is only expected to widen that gap next year. Android currently accounts for 45.9% of the U.S. smartphone OS market, followed by Apple's iOS at 38.3%, according to eMarketer. In 2014, Android and iOS are expected to grow their market shares to 47.5% and 39.5%, respectively.