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Android?s sweet tooth is distracting, but does it build the brand?

In an unusual move, Google has named Android 4.4 after Nestle?s Kit Kat chocolate bar. With the launch imminent for Apple?s iOS 7, Google?s strategy could help drum up some extra attention for its own offering.

Across the digital realm, software updates are not typically the focus of branding strategies or big marketing pushes. With mobile continuing to grow quickly and the stakes high for any company looking to compete, Google?s move may make an impression on the market, but could fall short of having any long-term impact on the brand.

?The timing of this announcement and the choice of Kit Kat are both intentional and instructive,? said Michael Zammuto, president of Brand.com, Philadelphia.

?Apple?s iOS 7.0 launch may be the fastest adopted software in history and is expected to deliver an entirely different design metaphor for Apple products that appears to be less ?playful? than previous versions," he said. "Selecting a code-name like, ?Kit Kat,? suggests something fun, playful and easy, but also something intent on winning, and they need all the free publicity they can get to preempt the media storm accompanying Apple?s release.?

?Brands should focus on building a healthy brand identity based on differentiators and customer benefits,? he said. ?This one probably won?t hurt Google or Kit Kat, but it is unlikely to sustain anything beyond a quick rush of headlines.  

Publicity hounds
Kit Kats are offered in more than 200 flavors and bought in Japan as gifts as a way of saying ?good luck? to someone, per Mr. Zammuto. He also reports that, in Japanese the phrase 'Kitto Katsu' roughly translates to 'surely win."

The news points to the growing difficulty companies face getting attention for their mobile developments as the space continues to grow and competition grows.

Cupcake was the first sweet-themed name for an Android release when it was introduced in 2009. All subsequent releases of Android have continued in the same vein in alphabetical order, with the most recent version being named Jelly Bean.

While many had expected the next Android release to be named Key Lime Pie, Google chose to name version 4.4 after the popular chocolate bar.

While the strategy may garner some extra publicity for Android, it could prove confusing for developers and is unlikely to build the Android brand in the long term.

?The challenges have to do with app versioning and logistics,? Mr. Zammuto said. ?Application developers and consumers alike will still need to know the actual version number or have a simple way to look up the order of Android releases.

A sweet promotion
From Nestle?s perspective, the Android arrangement helps it build on its digital strategy. According to the company, it is one of the top ten fast-moving consumer goods brands in social media in terms of fan numbers and engagement.

Nestle will distribute more than 50 million specially branded Kit Kat bars to mark the release of Android Kit Kat. The bars will be available in 19 markets Britain, the United States, India, Japan, Canada and Brazil.

The packaging will direct consumers to the Web site android.com/Kit Kat where they will have the opportunity to win one of a number of prizes including 1,000 Nexus 7 tablets, 150,000 Google Play $5 credits and 20,000 coupons for a free 8-oz. bag of Kit Kat minis.

A small number of Android robot-shaped Kit Kat bars will also be offered as prizes in selected markets.

To enter, consumers will need to find a code inside the wrapper of specially marked 1.5-oz. Kit Kat bars that can be entered on the site.

The promotion will run between September 6, 2013 and January 31, 2014 .

Potential pitfalls
Nestle is supporting the announcement with the introduction of a Kit Kat USA Facebook page and a Kit Kat USA Google+ page.

Additionally, a giant statue of the Google Android made out of the iconic Kit Kat bars will reside at Hershey's headquarters in Hershey, PA.

For Nestle, the strategy holds potential pitfalls if the latest version of Android 4.4 does not meet users expectations.

?Google?s decision to brand its latest OS version as Kit Kat today is both a surprise sweet deal for Google and for Nestle. It's a lot better than the rumors around the Key Lime pie naming,? said Bob Egan, founder of Sepharim Group, Falmouth, MA.

?Nestle's marketing team should be able to get some really good mileage out of the deal,? he said. ?But Nestle has to be mindful that part of its brand is inextricably tied to the quality of what Google delivers.

?Nestle will want to side step any increase in malware and other maleficence from Google Play, the Android app store, else Kit Kat will become KitKrap pretty quick.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York