17/09/2014

Would you eat Japan's scary black burger?

By Christy Davies

To the horror of the rest of the world, Burger King Japan is rolling out an entirely black burger: black bun, black sauce- even black cheese. 

Were this burger introduced to the UK, one can only imagine what the reaction would be: "Gross!" "That's disgusting!" "Why would anyone want to eat that!?"

Fortunately, Burger King knows what it's doing- Japan is a nation known for its love of culinary oddities (some examples below!) and as a consequence the black burger is perfect there- a curiosity certain to get consumers through the door.

   

But Burger King is a global brand, so should it be behaving in this way in one country, when it would be quite obviously inappropriate to do so in another?

Well- that's a difficult question. Of course, consistency is extremely important. That's why brands place such high value on comprehensive brand guidelines that explain which aspects of a their identity must remain constant, and where creativity, within parameters, can be allowed and encouraged. Global brands can and should market to their customers on a local basis- one size does not fit all, and though we now have many global brands, consumers are still products of their environments. At ECHO, we work on global brands every day- and we know how hard it is to enforce consistency whilst allowing regional teams to adapt to local tastes and trends- but if you want a fanclub that extends across borders, it's imperative that you get the balance right.

Burger King's arch-nemesis, the ubiquitous McDonalds, is famous for doing this well. They're present in 119 countries and serve millions of customers every day. Like Burger King, McDonalds introduces variants and specials inspired by each locality within which it operates. There's the Indian McCurry, the French Croque McDo (a croque monsieur) the Phillipino McRice Burger (with a rice bun instead of bread) and the German McNurnburger- consisting of three bratwurst served in a bun. Yes, really. But alongside these bespoke burgers, no matter where you are in the world, you will always be able to order the most iconic menu items and the brand looks, feels and behaves in the same way. The global voice remains consistent, and is enhanced, not undermined by its many local accents.

There are plenty of FMCG examples too. Pepsico's crisps business, called Walkers in the UK, Lays in the US and a host of other brand names in other countries, have created a distinctive visual identity called the "banner sun", that unifies their potato chip brands around the world despite variations in flavour and name.

So, would I eat a scary black burger? Yes I would! I'd love to. I like to make my own decisions, and I'll be judging the burger on how it tastes, not how it looks! But, since I don't live in Japan I know I'm not the target market. So really my opinion doesn't matter all that much. Are Burger King advocates in Japan excited by the idea? Yes, they are- and that is the point.

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