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Prof. Philip Sugai publishes a 4-part Case Study Series on KITKAT Japan

Updated Jul. 28, 2017
From gold and rose decorations, to the highest quality ingredients, the KITKAT flavors and varieties in Japan are unrivaled anywhere else the world. In fact, more than 300 different tastes and varieties of KITKAT have been introduced into the Japanese market since Nestlé Japan gained the manufacturing capabilities to use white chocolate as the base for its KITKAT production. As the creativity and innovation in flavors, ingredients and presentation continue to expand even today, this case series aims to offer insights into effective marketing practices as well as explore unique elements of conducting business in Japan today.

Introduced into Japan by Roundtree McIntosh in 1973, and subsequently purchased by Nestlé, the Nestlé Japan team worked relentlessly to understand the value of its brand, and deliver meaningful solutions based upon this core meaning. Prof. Sugai's newest case study series, KITKAT in Japan traces the evolution of the KITKAT brand from its original roots in the United Kingdom to its current position as an important part of Japanese culture and ethos.

The (A) case traces the Nestlé Japan team's serendipitous discovery of the power of its name when pronounced in the Kyushu dialect to mean "to surely win," and their work to position the KITKAT brand to serve platform for wishing someone facing a serious and difficult life challenge good luck. The (B) case highlights the Nestlé Japan team's efforts to enhance their manufacturing capabilities to enable them to create local "meibutsu" flavored KITKAT as well as mass-market flavor variations available throughout Japan. The (C) case chronicles the further evolution of the KITKAT brand, and the partnership that Nestlé Japan created with Japan Post to launch KITKAT Mail in more than 20,000 post offices around Japan on the exact same day. And finally, the (D) case traces the evolution of the KITKAT brand to the present, with the launches of "Otona no Amasa" – their line of KITKAT targeted to the adult palette – and their stand-alone, high-end Chocolatory shops.

This case study series is also accompanied by a video of Nestlé Japan Chief Marketing Officer, Mr. Masafumi Ishibashi explaining the case contents in detail here at Doshisha Business School in the Spring of 2017.

For more information on this case, please visit the Ivey Publishing website here.

8/25 Update: The cases are now also available on the Harvard Business Review website.
KITKAT in Japan (A): Sparking a Cultural Revolution
KITKAT in Japan (B): The Roots of Premiumization
KITKAT in Japan (C): Power of the Postal Service
KITKAT in Japan (D): A Trajectory for Future Growth
Some KITKAT varieties in Japan

Product images from Nestlé Japan's KITKAT website (