It's been hailed as a design classic, and blamed for the deaths of millions. Now Kalashnikov and its parent company has announced a rebrand and an ambition to become as big as Apple. Would you help them?
At a launch event in Moscow, the Rostec State Corporation announced a name change and rebrand for its collection of firearms brands which will henceforth be known as Kalashnikov Concern (which sounds like some kind of 80s art/rock outfit). The Siberia-based manufacturer has three strands - Baikal, which produces hunting weapons and equipment, Izhmash, which makes sporting weapons and the eponymous Kalashnikov, developer of the AK-47.
The group will now be represented by a red and black, double-K device (the colours being a reference to the flag of Udmurtia where the Concern's main factories are located) while Kalashnikov itself has a logo incorporating the weapon's trademark curved clip. The work was carried out by Moscow-based Apostol (which was reportedly paid $380,000) and ties in with a 4.5 billion ruble expansion plan, part of which is the aim to "expand military sales to more countries".
A chilling press release states that "Eighty percent of all of Kalashnikov output is exported. One of Concern's priorities is finding new and increasing its share of existing markets. This approach was used to pick 50 countries that have the most potential acquiring Kalashnikov military products. Concern already started new market penetration, mainly in the Asia-Pacific and African regions. The most promising markets for Kalashnikov are India and Egypt. Contracts with Thailand and Indonesia were signed recently, and Concern is in negotiations with South American countries."
As Russia Today reports, "The firearms producer also has a new slogan, or rather two different slogans. In English, it's "Protecting Peace," but in Russian it translates as "Weapons of Peace" or "Weapons of the World," depending on which meaning of the Russian word "mir" is used."
At the launch, Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov reportedly told RIA Novosti, "A brand is a considerable asset for any leading company, although we have a long way to go to Apple's $100 billion brand. I hope Kalashnikov will become as recognised and valuable."
In 2011, the Design Museum attracted widespread criticism when it acquired, alongside a Sony Walkman and copies of The Face, an AK-47 for its permanent collection. Whatever the horror it is responsible for, the reasoning was, this is a ‘well-designed', incredibly successful product.
More than that, the Kalashnikov has also become a cultural symbol thanks to its associations with freedom fighters, national liberation and, yes, terrorist groups. It's more than just a gun.
So how would readers feel if this brief came through your door? It's a killing machine that has, arguably, brought freedom to millions. It (or at least those using it) has directly caused incalculable suffering and yet it could be argued to have played a greater role in protecting the vulnerable than any other product. The Telegraph reported the following statement from Kalashnikov Concern in relation to the rebrand: "The idea is that weapons should help keep the peace, uphold justice, dignity and the right to life. Weapons make a man [sic] courageous, alert and create high sense of responsibility. Weapons protect the weak from the strong."
Would you take the job?