Tag Archives: branding

Weapons of Peace: How To Rebrand AK-47?

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Firearms producer Kalashnikov has done a 380K$ brand revamp with hot girls flashing their weapons in launch event. The manufacturer best known for their iconic AK-47 assault riffle, is now sporting stylish new logo, expanding to fashion line and here is their new slogan:

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Protecting Peace (In English)

Weapons of Peace (in Russian, has double meaning also as the world)

To quote Groucho Marx, the latter is a little bit like military music: a contradiction in terms.

However the first slogan is actually quite good as far as the slogans go. The reality is that guns kill people, despite what NRA says. If you are weapons manufacturer, the slogan “Kills both at home and abroad” only gets you so far. This slogan turns the focus from negative usage occasion (shooting people) to a higher goal (achieving peace). When brand talks about protecting it actually includes both the actual usage of the product and also the threat it provides thus the protection. The brand stresses that weapon will make a man courageous, alert and will create a sense of responsibility. They position the gun as the equalizer between strong and weak, the liberator of the world:

It precipitated not just a technological, but a social revolution. Freedom movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America could at last fight back against professional colonial armies. The AK-47 gave them the chance to demand rights and achieve justice. This is a weapon which helped people defend their families and futures, and demand the right to a peaceful future.

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Great work from the branding agency. For some reason they have not used famous brand ambassadors like Osama Bin-Laden in the ads. The sad reality has been that AK-47 has lately been more of the weapon of choice for criminals & terrorists. When you watch the new marketing video it gives somewhat edited history of this “weapon of peace”:

Despite the uplifting marketing speak; gun´s inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died last year, had some spiritual soul searching to be done regarding the weapon:

I keep having the same unsolved question. If my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?

It remains to be seen how far this new brand will take the company as they are facing some severe challenges. American gun market has been growing during the last years. Because of the trade sanctions Kalashnikov has now lost the whole American market, where most of their hunting products were sold (besides AK-47, Kalashnikov has a hunting & competitive shooting range, it is unclear to me are those ranges under the same slogan). Growth in Asia (Malaysia & Thailand especially) is apparently filling that gap. B2C business is only one side of the story as their main sources of their revenue are military contracts. Although they are most famous for AK-47, huge missiles deals are where the money really is. Apparently brand plays important role also in military cabinets, because CEO Sergei Chemezov declared his ambition to become the Apple of ammunition:

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.

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I Love Advertising, Because I Love Lying

I think that Jerry Seinfeld´s acceptance speech in Clios this year, was the most appropriate representation of what we actually do. Jerry might just be taking piss on every ad people on the audience and it might be filled with evil sarcasm and irony. I did not take it that way, I think it spoke with clarity and honesty why our industry is so great.

Five important points from Seinfeld´s Clio speech:

1. “I love advertising because I love lying. In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was”

Advertising is not really lying, but more of massaging the truth. Advertising is like your wedding photo, job interview or date. You are not making blatant lies, but you are emphasizing your good parts and trying to hide the bad parts. People are not stupid and this is the way the game is played. Just like in life, it is not the most handsome guy getting the prettiest girl. Who gets the prize will be the

2. “I don’t care that it won’t actually be like when I actually get the product being advertised because, in between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I’m happy, and that’s all I want.”

I know that the weightlifting shoes I ordered will not make me the most awesome weightlifter in the world (or not even in my gym). There are no shortcuts for hard work and when doing sports your whole life you know it. Having those increases my mood and eventually will make me better lifter. The motivation to buy things is much more nuanced than just showing off or filling some kind emotional void and misery.

3. “We know the product is going to stink. We know that. Because we live in the world, and we know that everything stinks. We all believe, hey, maybe this one won’t stink. We are a hopeful species. Stupid but hopeful”

This is what makes us human beings so great. Our hopefulness exceeds our stupidity, and latter we have plenty of. Majority of start-ups will end in bankruptcy. Majority of marriages will end in divorce. Majority of the diets will end in you getting fat or even fatter again. But the flipside is that there are people who are living happily ever after, becoming multi-millionaires and staying in shape. Our ability for rational thinking combined with total negligence of that same rational thinking makes us the most dominant species in this planet.

4. “I also think that just focusing on making money and buying stupid things is a good way of life.”

I think so too.

5. “I believe materialism gets a bad rap. It’s not about the amount of money. Nothing’s better than a Bic pen, a VW Beetle, or a pair of regular Levi’s. If your things don’t make you happy, you’re not getting the right things.”

My grandmother mentioned in my wedding that after a day of shopping I had happily shouted: “This is the life everyone should live!” On that same occasion my father reminded that when he first took my little brother & me to McDonald´s and I got my first ever Bic Mac. I commented that important event with the declaration: “This is the happiest day of my life”. No wonder I ended up in advertising.
Consumption makes us feel good and yes it gets bad rap for no reason. I still get happy when after meticulous saving, I was able to secure myself a pair of Technics turntables. Those have served me well for over 15 years and I still feel utterly happy about that purchase. How many other events you still savor after 15 years? I still remember getting my first jeans (Levis 501s). They were not just jeans, they were passage to adulthood.

With advertising we try to channel the inner need of consumerism to the brands and products we represent. We do not create any new needs for consumers. We do not try to make you feel miserable of not owning stuff, but rather make you happy when you make the right purchase. Consuming products and experiences can have tremendous uplifting affect to your mood.

That is a great and we should be proud of what we do.
At least I am.

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Lidl is The Most Authentic Brand

Unfortunately quite often advertising is totally removed from reality:

You cannot say anything negative.
No, we cannot mention competitors.
And we definitely cannot challenge them.
We cannot say that we are cheap. We should be affordable.
Let´s just do what we have done before and hope that enough media budget will save us.

Firstly of the seven basic human emotions only one is totally positive (happiness). Surprise can be either or and the rest of the five are negative (fear, sadness, disgust, anger, contempt). If sticking to happy smiling people we are only working with slightly over 20% of human emotions. Rest of 80% can trigger buying behavior as well, but majority of the brands are just

Secondly, brands should stand up for something and be proud of it. All the great brands in the world have distinct character and strong belief in something. That something benefits their customers and makes them loyal to that particular brand.

“You have enemies. Good. That means you´ve stood up for something sometime in your life”
-Winston Churchill

If competitor is attacking your brand, you should strike back hard. Or better yet, strike first so that your competitors do not know what has happened. For majority of the brands, the competitive strategy is dead simple: your either premium or your cheap. Being in the middle is just waiting the death of your brand.

For the above-mentioned reasons I have started to love Lidl.

They stand for something, which is being cheap. Not being affordable or other jargon, which does not mean anything. They are cheap, cheaper and cheapest. That is simple to understand. Last week they were attacked with the new scheme from Morrison. That got quite a lot of press and buzz. This quote from their chief executive Dalton Phillips however puts things in perspective:

“We are not and will not become a discounter. Match & More is about neutralising on price so that the rest of our offer will really shine through. There are so many areas where discounters will never be able to compete with Morrison.”

So basically you do not even yourself know what you are?

I think the following rebuttal has way more clarity, wit and balls:

Lidl is The Most Authentic Brand

Lidl-Morrison 1-0.

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What CrossFit Can Teach You About Branding

Those who read my post last week will already know that I have not yet become totally cynical to the art of marketing. I fell victim to good branding once in a while. I have been reminded of this gullibility, because lately I have desperately wanted to start CrossFit.

For those who are not in the know, CrossFit is an intense exercise program characterized by functional training using non-traditional weighlifting equipment (such as kettlebells). It has been probably been the hottest thing lately (especially among guys) in exercise circles and become quite mainstream in last couple of years. Reebok is also betting heavily on the rise of CrossFit.

I am already sports crazy. I run and do circuit training every morning, play in two basketball teams and try to swim once in a while. I do not really need any additions to my sports regime. I am healthy enough. The urge to start Crossfit is not rational decision. It has been branded well. It feels natural, because the exercise is functional. It feels total antithesis of the shiny gyms: many times CrossFit-sessions happening in the old warehouses. It has strong ethos of pushing to the limit, which resonates well with my view of sports in general. Exercising is not supposed to be fun. Only pain brings gain.

However when I was searching for the alternatives for CrossFit training in Singapore, I was shocked by the steep price tag of monthly prices. You should not really pay over 200+ dollars for basic circuit training in shitty warehouse. Or should you?

This is the inner dialogue I had:

Left brain: Hey that guy just took your our basketball summer training and is now charging hundreds of dollars a month from a glorified circuit training!
Right brain: But I want to push tractor tires to feel like a man!

Left brain: You push yourself too hard even in your morning jogs, CrossFit can actually destroy your muscles.
Right brain: Whatever, I want to train until I puke.
(Actually I heard a rumour that Red Bull sales increased when there was news coverage about alleged deaths of mixing Red Bull with Alcohol. Danger attracts.Also a vast majority of the news stories about harmfulness of different sports are written and shared by people who just want to find excuses for not exercising)

Why Crossfit is currently so appealing?

1. Proven business model
Crossfit.inc (founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman) follows in many ways the same success formula of the rise of “Les Mills”-branded classes, best known for Bodypump-classes. They license the Crossfit name to gyms for an annual fee and certify trainers. Licensing business is one of the most profitable types of business in the world.

 2. Room for creativity
Whereas Les Mills feels more like the McDonald´s of Gym Exercise (it is the same in every part of the globe), CrossFit still feels like a rebel alternative for it. Every CrossfFit-training can be different and the possible variations for the training are infinite.

3. Perfect training type for digital office worker
No-frills type of training feels perfect antidote for the overtly digital world we are living in. Also the sessions are high-intensity short bursts, which you can easily fill even to the busiest calendar.

4. Fueled by social media
I doubt that the sports would not be as big without the connected world we are living. There are CrossFit-forums, Facebook pages and endless amount of training videos. After watching this video by Finnish CrossFit-hero Mikko Salo, it almost felt I was training myself (150k views, btw):

5. Good story to tell
Exercising should always be about your own health and development. The truth is though that many times people exercise also for the bragging rights. CrossFit just sounds way cooler than being in Spinning. No offense to Spinning.

I probably try CrossFit despite the steep price tag. If no for other reason than to give a nod for the branding well done.

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