The King rules Japan differently than his homeland—and that helps his image here in his original kingdom.

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Last year it was all-black burgers for Burger King Japan (which McDonald’s Japan then ripped off). This year, it’s all-red burgers and a new version of the black.

Japan Burger King red and black burgers, because why not?

Naturally, apparently, the red burgers have a bit of a kick to them.

The so-weird-it’s-fun coloring is not just from a vat of artificial dye: the black version has charcoal-blackened buns and squid ink coloring, and the red comes from tomato powder.

That’s what’s going on in Japan. I would say they’re showing tremendous respect for the consumer—engaging their imagination, and predicting what they’ll be excited by.

Meanwhile, over here, they’re kind of floundering, unable to do much more than attempt to stir interest in re-introducing chicken fries with a widely ignored social media idea; and currently talking about basic chicken nuggets, for some reason, while dragging the King out of a four-year exile.

So there he was. The mildly perverted-seeming King. Despite the King’s once powerful and polarizing pre-eminence, it strikes me that, in terms of showing respect for its ideal audience, the Japan burgerkingdom is way ahead of its U.S. ally. Where Japan is leading the way with imaginative products, BK-USA is trumpeting old product, resurrecting dead campaigns and fumbling some, mismatching its own tonality to create a split personality as they straddle the toothless modern BK campaign and the edge-pushing older BK campaign, as they now decide to re-introduce the mostly creepy King (who is delightfully irreverent and random to a certain portion of a potential ideal audience, which is young men). Who does BK want to be?

It’s starting to look like they want their old cred back—that halo of eye-brow-raising adventurousness that King used to furnish.

That’s where Japan helps them out, reflecting a little glow of progressive hipness onto the U.S. BK brand for anyone who watches the announcement of red and black burgers on a Today show segment.

I do have to give U.S. BK credit for handling this Kentucky Derby stunt and the Floyd Mayweather entourage stunt really well. A little mysterious, perfect bait for social media and for forecasting The Return of the King. Maybe they’ll pull off their transition back into an interesting brand with respect for its ideal customers, after all.

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