Chance the Rapper KitKat still. Image provided by Kit Kat.
It’s official: Chance the Rapper is the voice and face behind Kit Kat’s latest commercial. Plus, that artist’s soulful, jazzy take on the 30-year-old classic jingle (“Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar…”) is now the official jingle and the only version you will hear for the next year or so. This is the first time ever that the candy brand, whose jingle is celebrating 30 years this year, has contracted with a celebrity to enhance the brand in this way.
“We’re in the process of trying to modernize the Kit Kat brand, not just in terms of what we’re communicating but how we’re communicating,” says Ian Norton, director of marketing for Kit Kat, which is distributed in the U.S. by The Hershey Company. “We were looking for an influencer who was the voice of his generation, but we wanted to stay leveraged and connected to our core Kit Kat fan. He is the positive voice for the generation. He’s a multi talented artist so he was really great to work with.”
The very tongue in cheek 30-second commercial spot features Chance the Rapper dressed as a Bear for Halloween as the star goes shopping for candy in a store in the Windy City. (In fact, the store was stocked with references to and actual props from Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment popular video/song with Chance, Sunday Candy.) While in the store he picks up a Kit Kat bar that has his own face superimposed on it, as in Chance the Wrapper. Funny funny ha ha.
It’s been a busy year for Chano, a South Side rapper who just won the BET Hip Hop Award for Best New Hip Hop Artist and dropped his latest mixtape Coloring Book and who recently bought back some 2,000 concert tickets from scalpers in an effort to ensure that his fans could afford to attend his Magnificent Coloring Day held in U.S. Cellular Field, also on the South Side. Earlier this year he was featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in advance of his album rollout and he remains unsigned in a sea of other rappers who chase contracts. Coloring Book was unique in that it became the first streaming-only album to chart in the Billboard 200.
Also interesting to note is that Chance typically gives his music away for free, a move that has in the past rendered him unable to be nominated for a Grammy. It’s an issue he alluded to in a Kanye West song, as reported by Billboard.
The release of Coloring Book comes in the same week that Chance promoted a petition imploring the Recording Academy to change the eligibility rules for Grammy nominations, which currently require releases to be available for sale at retail outlets during its eligibility window. That means that both free releases and streaming-only releases — Coloring Book is likely to be both — are not under consideration, something Chance noted in his verse on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” in February. (“I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy / Let’s make it so free and the bars so hard / That there ain’t one gosh darn part you can’t tweet.”) But that could change before next year’s awards; a rep for the Grammys tells Billboard that the nomination process goes under an annual review each year, with results to be announced in June.
But, surprise, surprise, the Academy changed their rules this past summer and now the rapper is eligible for a win. As reported by BET, the rule change is a big win for artists who don’t release physical copies of CDs.
Kit Kat, who says they are “growing above category norms,” reached out to the rapper after hearing him reference the brand in a song. They found that he represented the exact demographic they wanted: young, hip, fun. And, it didn’t hurt that one of his top songs referenced the word candy.
“Unexpected. Lighthearted. Dynamic,” says Norton. “He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s willing to do things that are al little quirky and fun. He often references candy in his lyrics. He really has an ability to create a movement so we identified him as on the cusp of becoming mainstream and really breaking through.”
Plus, he helps them “modernize,” officials say.
The new campaign features spots in all mediums, but online lands the lengthiest commercial segment at 30 seconds while TV will see 15 second spots. The rollout is attuned to Halloween, which is Kit Kat’s largest season. More segments are planned, all of which were filmed in Chicago.
The Kit Kat jingle is one of the most recognizable tunes around. A University of Cincinnati study called it an “ear worm,” or something very difficult to get out of your head once you hear it. Chance’s version also marks the first time in 20 years that the entire song is sung. If you recall, up to now, there have been various musical versions of the jingle released, but none with full lyrics of the sort that were recorded when the jingle first debuted three decades ago.
Many people would say: “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” So why did Kit Kat update their sound? Exposure to a new audience. Plus, Chance’s version was “an easy sell” internally, according to the company spokesperson. That said, the biggest winner here might be the rapper himself because the fact that such a huge brand tapped Lil Chano from 79th street speaks volumes about the rapper’s marketability and star power.