KitKat brand strategy / positioning case study

KitKat Brand Strategy Analysis

FMCG Foodconfectionery and chocolate, desserts & ice creams

Owner of the brand:
Nestlé S.A., The Hershey Company (US)

Key competitors:
Snickers, Toblerone, Cadbury, Hershey’s, Butterfinger

Brand essence

Celebrating breaks.

Brand values

Relaxation, fun, accessibility, innovation.

Brand character

Fun, empathetic, playful, carefree, positive, creative.


The brand KitKat (back then Kit Cat) was trademarked by Rowntree’s, a British confectionary company, as early as 1911. However, it wasn’t in use until the 1920s, when it became the name of boxed chocolates (later discontinued).
The KitKat bar, as it’s known today, was launched in 1935 as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp after a Rowntree’s employee came up with an idea of a treat “a man could take to work in his pack”[1]. It was rebranded KitKat a few years later.
In 1988, Rowntree’s was acquired by Nestlé. However, the acquisition took place after Rowntree’s had already sold KitKat brand’s licensing rights in the US to the Hershey Company. As a result, today, KitKat is owned by Nestlé everywhere in the world except for the US. If the Hershey Company is ever acquired by another entity, the licensing rights for KitKat (as well as for Rolo) will be granted back to Nestlé[2]


Since its launch, KitKat was positioned as “workingman’s chocolate”[3] and presented in adverts as a snack for, as The New York Times Magazine put it, “construction workers, cops or commuters taking five hard-earned minutes to enjoy a moment of sweetness in an otherwise bleak day[4]. With time, the brand’s target audience has become wider, but the core of its brand strategy hasn’t changed much – it still revolves around celebrating different kinds of breaks. Lisa May, former KitKat Head of Marketing, told The Drum: “Our biggest focus (…) is really about championing breaks, which we’ve always been doing, but we want to make sure we champion all kinds of different breaks.”[5]
The brand has also been using the same tagline since 1958: “Have a break, have a KitKat”.


One of the key pillars of KitKat’s strategy and the brand’s success factors is product innovation. KitKat is available in several shapes and in hundreds of flavours: from more traditional ones like hazelnut, cookies and cream or cappuccino, to truly exotic ones such as miso soup, wasabi, soy sauce, European cheese or chestnut, which are in particular popular in Japan, where KitKat is the best-selling chocolate bar. KitKat also experiments with its packaging. For example, in Brazil, the brand introduced a glow-in-the-dark edition with black wrapping and a fluorescent logo to support Earth Hour.


KitKat prides itself on the usage of – what the company’s executives call – “moment marketing”. “Moment marketing” is a term describing the brand’s ability to react fast and “leverage topical or news events”[6]. It started with a Facebook post directed at Felix Baumgartner, who was about to skydive from the stratosphere (a stunt organized by Red Bull), but had to postpone the jump because of bad weather. The post, which later went viral said: “It could be a long wait Felix…have a break, have a KitKat.”[7] The company also sent KitKat into space, attached to a weather balloon[8]. Following this marketing success, KitKat interacted with other brands. For example, it wanted to play noughts and crosses with Oreo on Twitter, cooperated with Google so that it named version 4.4 of its mobile operating system Android KitKat (apparently, Google’s engineers are big fans of the chocolate bar)[9] or launched a KitKat branded T-shirt with Zara[10].


KitKat, according to many marketing blogs and publications, is a Regular Guy brand due to its efforts to appeal to everybody and showcase everyday situations in its communication. However, it is also a Jester brand, as humour is part of its brand equity: “Part of our brand essence is having a sense of humour – an empathetic, laugh with you, not laugh at you, sense of humour.”[11]

Most important campaigns

1. “What A Difference A Break Makes” (South Africa, 2022)

2. “KITKAT Senses – Time Traveller” (UK, 2018)

3. “Chance The (W)rapper” (US, 2016)

4. “Kit Kat Goes To Space!” (2012)

5. “Panda” (1987)


Official brand statement:

Have a break, have a KitKat

The world’s favorite break
The perfect balance of chocolate and wafer, there’s a reason KitKat is enjoyed in more than 80 countries. The iconic brand is an international symbol for hitting the pause button on life – to enjoy a well-earned break.
From classic fingers to chunky, original to peanut butter, there is a KitKat for everyone. In Japan alone, flavors include wasabi and sake – while the gift of a KitKat is customary for students sitting their exams. The country’s KitKat Chocolatory even lets you design your own dream KitKat.
KitKat is the first global chocolate brand to use 100% sustainably sourced cocoa through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and Rainforest Alliance certified. Meaning there’s no reason not to pause… and enjoy a break.[12]

Interesting facts:

Orange KitKat was the first flavoured variant of the chocolate bar. It was launched in the UK in 1996.[13]


1. Contagious on KitKat’s activation with Fifa 22 online tournament
“KitKat Infiltrates Fifa 22 To Give Gamers A Break”, Contagious, May 2022, 

2. Financial Times on KitKat’s global expansion
G. Tett, “How The Kitkat Went Global”, Financial Times, Mar 2021,  

3. Transform Magazine on KitKat’s trademark failure
M. Thalassinou, “Have A Trademark Failure, Have A KitKat”, Transform Magazine, Jul 2018,

  1. G. Tett, “How The Kitkat Went Global”, Financial Times, Mar 2021,
  3. T. Rao, “Big In Japan”, The New York Times Magazine, Oct 2018,
  4. ibid.
  5. N. Mortimer, “KitKat Wants To Deliver More Personalised Versions Of Its ‘Break’ Strategy”, The Drum, Jan 2016,
  6. “KitKat Turns 80: How ‘Moment Marketing’ Helped This Iconic Chocolate Brand Conquer The Digital World”, Nestlé, Aug 2015,
  7. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10., Jul 2022
  11. “Five Reasons Why KitKat Got 28,000 Shares With A Single Tweet”, Nestlé, Sep 2014,

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