Not one to shy away from controversial or edgy projects, creative agency Snask is back with a rebrand of North Korea that explores how the country might look if it softened up a bit. The result is Love Korea, a humourous website which showcases the various ways North Korea could compromise some of its stricter policies, including radical haircut ideas, a new flag, and redesigned currency.
For the founder and creative director of Snask, Fredrik Öst, this was a dream project that has long been on his to-do list. "We've always wanted to rebrand North Korea because it's such a challenge," he explains. "To brand a country alone would be a dream, but doing North Korea means incredible challenges and opportunities.
"They have extremely bad awareness of their own brand and how it's perceived by the rest of the world," he adds. "On top of that they have a completely wrong view of themselves, believing their country is the best and their leader is a role model for the rest of the world within leadership, running a country, fashion, sports, dictatorship I guess, and many more. Also turning something bad into something good is a dream for us and something we always wanted to do."
Yet despite having this project in mind for years, it was only when ICON magazine got in touch that the opportunity presented itself. Snask was contacted by the publication to do a fake rebrand of an existing brand in their magazine, so Öst and his team grabbed the opportunity to create a new North Korea. Once work got underway, the concept was pushed and developed into a fully fledged identity.
"We based the whole rebrand on a new and changed North Korea where it's become a free democracy by international standards," Öst reveals. "But we didn't want to ridicule them, rather show an alternative route where some parts were left and others changed."
The name Love Korea lead to the communist star on the flag being replaced by a heart, which in turn become the symbol of the country. As for keeping the flag's colours the same, this was an intentional move as the colour scheme is the same as South Korea and helps to tie the two countries together.
"We also chose to add a new hairstyle which would liberate the citizens and allow them to grow their hair to any length and style. They only have 28 allowed hairstyles today," says Öst.
Considering that dealing with North Korea is an incredibly delicate matter even at the best of times, Snask were careful not to mock the country and its citizens. "It was a rule we put from the very beginning," says Öst "We didn't want to stomp in and tell them that everything is shit, even though a lot of their ways of treating their citizens are in line with a dictatorship. But we didn't want to mock them or ridicule their country. We wanted to simply inspire and show a real possible new way."
Despite this caution, Öst reasons that the average Korean will probably never see their hard work. "They only have seven websites in their domain," he says "But if they see it I hope they like the idea of it. When it comes to Kim Jong-Un, I really hope it somehow sparks an idea that being loved and open arms are much nicer than the opposite."
5 steps for rebranding a dictatorship
With a wealth of rebranding under their belt, Snask were well positioned to make this rebrand a success. For anyone else out there interested in rebranding a dictatorship, Öst has put together these 5 simple tips to keep in mind if you want to bring down the establishment.
- "Start out with asking yourself how you want it to be received by both the dictatorship as well as it's people and the rest of the world."
- "Write yourself a brief, no matter how short. It helps you to draw up some limits, otherwise you will spin off in hundreds directions. The possibilities are endless in a dictatorship rebrand."
- "You need to decide what units should be included. I mean, it's perhaps not appropriate to rebrand a torture method, but hey, some huge democracies today seem to have them as well so why not."
- "You also have to decide how to get the message across to the actual dictatorship. Even though it's extremely effective to simply travel to the border and try and describe what you want it's probably wiser to find another way."
- "Last but not least, if you feel a twitch in your fingers and whole body when creating new rules and new torture methods you should probably not rebrand a dictatorship. Or at least not if you want them to become a free democracy."