KitKat’s bravery shows benefits of killing the dwarves

The KitKat team have been brave enough to "kill the dwarves" in their range, those little line extensions that eat up money and time, and bring little in the way of sales. The resources freed up have been re-focused on core growth, and on one big, bold and successful extension: KitKat Senses.They are now reaping the business benefits of this strategy, with sales up 30% in 2008, the fastest-growing confectionery brand in the UK, according to a report in Marketing.
This is really hard to do, as people in the business tend to have emotional attachment to new products. They may even have had personal involvement in lauching them. And people worry that killing off these products will lead to a loss in sales. Below is the picture of the KitKat range back in 2004, when I chaired a conference on Brand Stretch for the Markeing Society, at which the KitKat markting manager presented:
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We had Editions with fillings, white versions, lemon filled versions, and Kubes. The latter was the dodgiest of all, as it broke with the product equity of KitKat which is the breakability of the product. A physical act that ties in beautifully with the occasion of taking a break in your day.

Over the last few years the range has been re-focused, with the core 2 and 4 finger product, chunky (more substantial for younger men) and the successful launch last year of Senses (for female indulgence).

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What I love most about the KitKat growth story is the love and attention dedicated to renovating the core product. The words of Mark Simester, Marketing Manager, are music to my ears:

– Refresh what made you famous: "We have also taken the elements of the
Kit Kat brand that make it part of everyday family life and updated

– Start with the sausage (product): "We have focused on product quality with an
obsessive attention to detail."

– Add sizzle (emotional appeal): "The 'Stop working like a machine and have a break, have a
Kit Kat' advertising campaign, is based on the
insight that people today are caught up in the monotony of everyday
life and need a break more than ever before."


The other smart thing KitKat have done is focus on one bigger, better, bolder brand extension. Whereas Editions fiddles with adding flavoured fillings, Senses keeps the chocolate break from the core product, but makes it more indulgent with a hazlenut praline centre. Should steal sales from Kinder Bueno I imagine, rather than core KitKat.

Again, a great sausage/product, and some nice sizzle in the shape of Girls Aloud. I like the way the ad is loyal to the core brand idea of "Make your break better". And the way the website is more female, yet respects the red visual equity of the brand.

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A challenge will be to manage the more aspirational, female, sexy Senses part of the brand, with the more male, macho Chunky bit. How to avoid becoming schizophrenic? I guess its OK, as there is a product link in the break, and the brand has different breaks for different folk?

Also, it does seems there are still a few dwarves knocking around in the shape of flavour versions of the 2-finger product, including some weird ones, at least on the website. Assuming this site is not out of date, may be a last bit of dwarf killing to do?!

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