Blog Post

What’s In A Name?

Author: Nile Freeman

For the first time in a long time, I sat down and really watched the Olympics this year. The games in Tokyo were a brilliant reminder of how unshakable people can be. As I watched event after event, something odd started happening — I started rooting for strangers. I started rooting for stories.

That’s why we watch, isn’t it? Not to see how fast, or strong, or skillful an athlete is — but to see how (this chapter in) their story ends. As more athletes popped up on screen, and had their stories told, a pattern began to unfold. Each story had a different protagonist, from a different setting, with different inspirations but ultimately, the message was the same:

Good things take time; they take dedication, and sometimes, they take a little luck.

While some companies work tirelessly for years to create brand recognition and build trust with their audiences, other companies simply stumble upon the right name. In 1988 Nestle bought out Rowntree, a British confectionery company, and started producing Kit Kat candy bars. These tasty chocolate wafers were named after Christoper Catling, a tavern owner and portly pastry chef who hosted political meetings while passing out mutton pies. He called the pies “Kit Cats”, Kit being short for Christopher, and called the group the Kit-Cat Club.

Luck was surely on Nestle’s side with this name when they decided to push their Kit Kat product into the global market. While it was chosen to pay homage to the famous London chef, “Kit Kat” also loosely mirrors “kitto katsu”, which translates into many positive Japanese phrases focused on success and good fortune. This surprise connection immediately made the candy bar extremely popular in Japan, where it was marketed as a good luck charm. Parents and teachers often give Kit Kat’s to students during exam periods, which instantly brought back memories of my own grade school math teacher handing out Smarties before algebra tests. Some names build an instant connection, don’t they? They give people something to grab onto and make into their own. Then suddenly, a brand means something different; it means something more.

It is estimated that around 192 million Kit Kat bars are sold each year in the US. In Japan, they sell 5 million a day – that’s 1.8 billion a year! And with 300 to 400 rotating and limited edition flavors specific to the country, it is safe to say the Kit Kat brand has successfully embedded itself into Japanese culture. They even created a new flavor and gold medal packaging to be featured at this year’s Olympics to honor their athletes. While almost everyone enjoys a Kit Kat from time to time (I know I do), it clearly has special context in the Japanese story that can’t be ignored or duplicated.

Here at Aspen Finn, we are inspired by stories like this that show how brands weave their way into the fabric of our lives, and how those connections galvanize the consumer mindset towards that brand. Our unique resources allow our team of experts to gain intimate access to consumers around the globe, and uncover the stories that drive the data.

Nestle didn’t start out knowing the name Kit Kat would have deeper, delightful meaning to Japanese customers. I’m sure they never thought a Kit Kat would be the symbol of good luck before a big test, or after a hard day. Nestle couldn’t have elbowed their way into those moments if they sat down with a room of experts and tried to do it. But there they are! These moments and the way they come together to inform whole consumer experiences is what our team lives for.  We utilize a variety of innovative platforms and frameworks to understand how customers view brands in relation to their own story, and what drives their decision making. We give deeper insight and meaning to how brands fit into the stories of their customers, and illuminate how brands occupy space in stories they didn’t even know existed.

Whether you’re just starting out and looking to develop a captivating and compelling brand, or you’re an established household name looking to better understand and cater to your customers, or somewhere in between – let us guide you through.

So what’s your story? And how can we help you tell everyone?