BRAND HEALTH CHECK: Kit kat - Has Nestle been wise to repackage Kit Kat? Kit Kat has shed its old-style foil and paper covering for flow wrap and a tear strip. Can it convince consumers that this was the right move, asks Suzy Bashford

Nestle-owned Kit Kat is making a bold move. Britain's favourite

chocolate bar brand for the past 15 years is ditching its characteristic

silver foil in favour of flow wrap plastic packaging.



OK, big deal, some may say. But for others, the ritual of taking off the

wrapper with mouth-watering anticipation is a key part of the

chocolate-eating experience and there is dismay at the decision among

this portion of the public.



Nestle has prepared itself for this disappointment and is putting a

pounds 3m marketing campaign behind the new packaging, using TV, press

and posters.



Consumers may find solace in the up-and-coming TV ads fronted by ex-Big

Breakfast presenter Kelly Brook, but other Kit Kat lovers could need

more convincing - especially the female ones who make up the majority of

the Kit Kat user base.



Kit Kat has been on the modernisation trail for a while now with its

Chunky launch, tie-up with MSN and a move away from traditional TV ads

to radio and press.



With these changes, Kit Kat's popularity has soared, putting its brand

value at pounds 250m according to Nestle. But changing the foil on the

four-fingered Kit Kat (the two-bar snack launched in a plastic flow

wrap) is different - it's letting go of the last vestige of

tradition.



The jury's out on whether consumers will take to the new packaging.

Nestle's marketers are hoping to convince them with the contemporary,

relevant look and the claim it keeps chocolate fresher.



Changing the packaging for Kit Kat has not been an easy decision. Nestle

has looked at doing away with the silver foil four times in the past

decade but consumers were not considered ready for such a momentous

change. Now the confectionery company thinks the time is right.



We asked Peter Shaw, director of brand consultancy Corporate Edge, who

has worked with clients Cadbury, and Bob Morrison, who left a senior

role at Mars Confectionery to found branding agency Elephants Can't

Jump, for their opinions.



VITAL SIGNS

Brand 2000 sales % Company Adspend

(pounds m) change (pounds)

Kit Kat 175-180 27.0 Nestle Rowntree 9,007,997

Cadbury Dairy Milk

(total) 160-165 0.8 Cadbury 2,780,558

Mars Bar 110-115 4.4 Mars 7,968,903

Galaxy (total) 80-85 -10.3 Mars 3,725,219

Twix 75-80 5.2 Mars 2,409,395

Source: ACNielsen, Marketing's Biggest Brands year to April 2000.





DIAGNOSIS - Peter Shaw



The ritual of unwrapping a Kit Kat has long been cited as the defining

part of the brand experience. Easing it out of that tight-fitting band

of paper, gently slipping inside the foil, lifting it out, finger by

finger.



Salivating stuff. But probably more salivating to your 40-something who

still enjoys a nice cup of tea, than your Tango-drinking

20-something.



Taking Kit Kat into flow wrap is a brave move and, I am sure, a

nerve-wracking one for the brand team. However, the move is well

founded. Flow wrap has genuine benefits: it ensures the bar is going to

be in an optimal state; it is simpler for accessing the product, it is

more ecologically sound and it says modern and 'on the go'. It would

also seem that the unwrapping ritual has been catered for with the tear

strip - so you can still enjoy a frisson of anticipation.



Each generation does things differently from the last. They get

frustrated by what to them seem quirky and old-fashioned ways and always

expect quicker access to higher quality products. Perhaps the one thing

we should pause for thought over is whether instant gratification is

truly preferable to the pleasure of anticipation.



TREATMENT- Shaw's suggestions



- Invest a lot of effort in responding to any concerns consumers raise

and then stun them with your responsiveness and interest.



- Use the move to flow wrap to signal a more modern role, beyond the tea

break.



- Remind people about the product experience and keep on doing it.



DIAGNOSIS - Bob Morrison



When we talk about chocolate, we're talking big passion. Chocolate is

about pleasure, and as with so many of the good things in life,

anticipation plays a large part. This is where the silver foil and paper

sleeve of Kit Kat are a big turn on. Everybody knows the little Kit Kat

rituals that build anticipation. By moving to the ubiquitous and cheaper

flow wrap, it removes a core visual icon and major element of the Kit

Kat eating experience.



This change fails my reality check. What is a fresher break? In this

category, longer shelf life is a manufacturer benefit, and not an issue

over which Kit Kat lovers are likely to have been petitioning York.



My unease is increased when I see the advertising idea is about ease of

opening. Not only is this a different claimed benefit than the on-pack

claim of freshness, but more importantly it's just not true. Flow wrap

can offer greater stand-out but, compared with foil and sleeve, it is

harder to open and so builds in frustration rather than adding

anticipation.



Sorry, but unlike the fantastic boldness and brashness of Kit Kat

Chunky, this act of brandalism has the cold hand of a Swiss accountant

all over it.



TREATMENT - Morrison's medicine



- 'Enthuse not excuse' - whatever the benefit you settle on, then sell

it with conviction.



- Start working now to compensate for the loss of a core visual and

experiential element of the brand experience.



- In every piece of communication, drive home the real core brand

benefits with clarity, consistency and creativity.