In Japan, where new varieties of familiar products appear and disappear with the seasons, consumers are often left feeling bereft when their favorite flavor suddenly becomes unavailable. “What happened to that delicious Milk Tea KitKat?” shoppers moan as they scour konbini shelves for that elusive treat. But a couple of campaigns from Nestle and Nissin have brought a small degree of relief to those suffering from this first world problem.

Both companies launched grand election campaigns this year, allowing customers to vote for the reintroduction of their favorite flavor. Nissin kicked things off earlier this year with its Cup Noodle election campaign. Visitors to the election website were able to vote for their favorite retro flavor out of a possible 73 options. The winning product, with 133,144 votes was tempura soba, and will be available in stores from January next year.

Not to be outdone, Nestle, the maker of KitKat, has also launched an almost identical campaign in which voters online get to choose their favorite discontinued variety of the chocolately snack. However, KitKat’s campaign is a little more limited in scope: the candidates include only 19 varieties. And one of my friends did grumble that their favorite Cola Lemon KitKat didn’t make the list.

Strategies seem to be evolving, and a clever bunch of marketers have come up with a nifty little campaign that allows consumers to actually create their own product rather than choose from a limited list. Morinaga, the makers of Creap creamer, has launched an interactive site called Creap Cafe Producer on which it’s possible for visitors to create their own drink using, of course, Creap creamer. Once you’ve selected your flavors, ingredients and topping, your concoction can be posted to your Facebook or Twitter account.

The most popular virtual drinks will be available for sale over the counter. From Sept .29 to Nov. 9, the first of these drinks will be available from the Jiyugaoka and Yodobashi Akiba branches of Donut Planet, as well as at the Got Music? Café and Bar at Tokyo Station. Then, from Nov. 10 to Dec. 11, other winning drinks will be available at 11 participating locations nationwide. Not only that but 1,000 names will be drawn from a lottery of those who created popular drinks and they will receive a gift voucher for a Creap drink to send to a friend via Giftee.

Since it’s a good way for companies to keep pace with consumer appetites, we expect to see a lot more of this kind of interactivity in future campaigns.


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