Anyone who has ever walked down the street humming “Give me a break, break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar,” or has shelled out extra money for a bottle of Perrier water knows the power of brand identification in the modern marketplace.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the vice-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nestle Corporation, spoke on the subject of brand names to approximately 50 students at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea Tuesday afternoon.

During his talk, Brabeck-Letmathe explained how one of the largest corporations in the world appeals to the individual consumer. He also addressed how Nestle is able to create and cultivate lasting brand names that promote consumer loyalty.

“Brands are the lifeblood of companies like Nestle,” Brabeck-Letmathe said. “Brands make the difference.”

The talk centered primarily on the need of companies to compel consumers to develop an emotional attachment to a particular brand name. Brabeck-Letmathe cited the example of Felix brand cat food, a product of Nestle. He said that while Felix is not substantially different from other cat foods, it became successful because its advertisements did not overly romanticize cats, as many other brands sometimes do.

Brabeck-Letmathe went on to reiterate how companies must successfully cultivate brands in order to be successful.

“Having a brand is like growing a child,” he said. “You have to nurture it.”

The Nestle Corporation has an income larger than the gross domestic product of many countries, Brabeck-Letmathe said. He added that the company is only able to achieve that success by continually maintaining a close understanding of prevailing consumer moods and through constant innovation, even of old products.

“We have some brands that are over 100 years old but are stronger than ever,” he said. “People are still willing to pay more for Perrier because they have a different relationship with the product than with other water.”

Saybrook College Master Mary Miller said she was pleased with the presentation.

“I am always delighted when I have a chance to think about marketing,” she said. “[Brabeck-Letmathe] made Nestle seem like a model company.”

During the question and answer segment of the tea, Brabeck-Letmathe was called upon to discuss controversial topics such as the effects of globalization and Nestle’s use of genetically-altered foods.

“Globalization leads to a major consciousness of local roots,” Brabeck-Letmathe said.

He added that even though Nestle brands exist throughout the world, they differ according to regional preferences and customs.

“Globalization has not led to one culture but has led to more differentialization,” Brabeck-Letmathe said. “Brands transmit culture, but they are still local.”

Max Gladstone ’06 said he was impressed by what Brabeck-Letmathe had to say.

“It was really interesting having a very knowledgeable person talking about perpetuating the image of a brand in the consumer’s mind,” Gladstone said.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”19731″ ]