Instead of trying to rebrand the AK-47 as a 'weapon of peace', Kalashnikov should just tell the truth

If you’re one of the 250,000 people killed every year by a gun, the chances are it’s a Kalash

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The Independent Online

Here’s a rebranding exercise to test the finest marketing brains: repitching the Kalashnikov AK-47 as a “weapon of peace". That’s what the makers of the world’s most popular killing machine are doing. Welcome to Kalashnikov Concern, a new brand (complete with lovely, black/red CK logo) that’s selling designer sportswear, knives and hunting rifles as well as the gun that has been regularly waved in the air and fired into each other’s heads by freedom fighters, genocidal militia and government troops alike, from Allahabad to Zimbabwe, from 1949 to 2014.

Giving it the name “Concern” is good, isn’t it? As if it were like Age Concern, or Save the Children or Crisis at Christmas, as if the makers were asking for your support in worrying about some global emergency. Well there is a global emergency out there: it’s called Too Many People Being Shot.

Kalashnikov’s chief executive said the rebrand “will reflect our main principles: reliability, responsibility and technological efficiency”. There is apparently a lot to be said for the reliability and efficiency of the AK-47. Among other benefits, I’m told, it’s light, cheapish and useable in sandy deserts or muddy jungles, it doesn’t break, jam or overheat. They say it’s so simple, even a child could use it – a feature that hasn’t gone unnoticed in many African countries.

People look at the screen during the presentation of the new logo of the Kalashnikov company in Moscow













If you’re one of the 250,000 people killed every year by having a bullet rearrange your brains or guts, the chances are it’s a Kalash. You should be proud to be mown down by something so globally fashionable. It’s like being destroyed by an iPhone 6. Don’t think of it as death. Think of it as the end of a really on-trend lifestyle.

It’s not just the rank-and-file thickies, the dim jihadists and shouty zealots who enjoy the machine’s any-fool simplicity, however; serious leaders appreciate (or used to appreciate) the gun, too. Saddam Hussein had a special gold-coated one made. Osama bin Laden was never photographed without one. As a result, insurgents and terrorists in 106 countries around the world came to believe there was only one brand to use in achieving their crackpot aims.

The third company principle, remember, is “responsibility” and it’s an important consideration for today’s businessmen. Sad to relate, this doesn’t mean that new Kalashnikovs will carry a sticker on the barrel saying “Please kill responsibly.” No, they’re rocking the responsibility factor by marketing the gun as a useful, indeed vital, tool for the oppressed.

“[The gun] precipitated not just a technological but a social revolution,” crows a marketing video that accompanies its relaunch. “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.” The advertising pitch is clear: Good guys buy Kalashnikovs. Buy one of these and your conscience is clear.” I wonder how concerned Kalashnikov Concern was about the way al-Shabaab stormed a Nairobi shopping mall with AK-47s blazing last year, killing 67 and wounding 175? Or how shocked it is by this week’s atrocity, when al-Shabaab gunmen drove into a quarry in north-west Kenya, singled out 36 non-Muslims and shot them point-blank with their Kalashnikovs?

Will the Russian manufacturers smite their brows, gaze at each other in consternation and cry, “That wasn’t supposed to happen”? And will they abandon their current blather about efficiency and responsibility and just run with the more honest slogan: “Kalashnikov – killing everyone for 65 years!”


Save our Samantha!

A publicity image for an upcoming Christmas special episode of 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

I love Radio 4’s I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue for many reasons, among them its updates on the career of Samantha, its nymphomaniacal, but fictional, scorer (“Samantha often runs errands for the recording crew, such as nipping out to fetch their sandwiches. Their favourite treat is cheese with home-made chutney, but they never object when she palms them off with relish.”)

So I’m sorry to hear that some unnamed malcontent has complained that these moments are “schoolboy sexist so-called humour” that is “both puerile and unfunny”. I don’t think it’s sexist to portray a woman as having an energetic (and obliging) sex life. But the Samantha punchlines aren’t so much about sex as linguistic horseplay, cleverly slanted to work best on radio:

“Samantha has recently started keeping bees, and already has three dozen or so. She has an expert handler who comes round to give her demonstrations. He’ll carefully take out her 38 bees, and soon has them flying around his head.”

It’s Max Miller’s vaudeville routine, brought hilariously up to date with an endlessly inventive heroine. Who could object to that?