After a cold and windy Range Day, a ride in Glock’s submarine, Aquila’s mini-shells and a peek at Maxim Defense’ new gun—SHOT Show 2019 has left me wondering what the coming year holds.
After taking some time to think through my experiences and having a few discussions with clients and industry professionals—here are my top takeaways from a marketer’s perspective—on what I thought of this year’s largest shooting, hunting, and outdoor industry trade show and some marketing ideas for your consideration.
1. Increased International interest?
Clients and friends I talked to agree—there seemed to be an increased international interest this year. I saw and spoke to a lot more companies from Turkey, India, Scandinavia, Israel, and others than previous years. I was approached by a couple of European companies about expansion into the U.S. market. There are a few things that could be driving this, and I don’t want to speculate, but with more international brands entering the U.S. market, competition in 2019 and future years may get a bit tighter.
2. Brand communication shifts indicate where the market is moving.
Three exciting brand shifts that caught my attention belonged to Mossberg, Daniel Defense, and Springfield Armory.
Mossberg goes black.
A hunting brand long known for their shotguns looks to have finally completed their evolution into a tactical/self-defense brand with their new MC1sc 9mm Sub Compact pistol along with an entire booth and website redesign that aligns with their “Arm Yourself” campaign theme. They also traded their traditional blue and yellow color palette for black and yellow. This change is a total rebrand of the 100-year-old company.
Daniel Defense mixes in the country.
On the opposite end—Daniel Defense with the release of their new bolt gun moves to the middle between tactical and outdoor which signals a push to balance the brand between the two markets. A quick look at their website shows the Ambush models front and center. They incorporated a more apparent outdoor theme into this year’s catalog, which also indicates where the manufacturer’s head is on current trends.
Springfield focuses on being more real.
Springfield Armory’s catalog pictured models on location in Wyoming (my home State – Go Pokes!) riding four wheelers, camping, fishing, fending off bears and hunting. These look like regular folks which to me was a breath of fresh air in contrast to the often overused black tactical imagery. This kind of imagery also started popping up in some of Glock’s materials.
So what do these shifts in brand communication mean?
- Top brands are aware of the trends that point to a more humanistic approach
- Hunting is still essential, but self-defense is where the money is at
- Brands still struggle to walk the line between being a tactical and hunting company (or both)
- Younger marketing professionals are taking the reigns reflected in this year’s marketing materials
- Is “Tacticool” finally over? 🙂
4. “An Unprecedented Effort”
NSSF’s outgoing president Steve Santenni stated that “NSSF is embarking on an unprecedented effort to get out the positive messages about our industry across the country. Using all the tools available to us, we will fight the shaming and name calling being thrown against us, with the truth that we are a critical part of the solution.”
I applaud the NSSF for taking this on. But in order for this to work, NSSF must have a clear message, rally the involvement of manufacturers, dealers, and distributors, media, create a coalition of out-of-industry ‘gun friendly’ groups and then track and optimize this effort over time to ensure success.
Our industry is full of good, honest, hard-working regular people who follow the laws, pay their taxes and want to raise their families and live in peace—this must be emphasized. NRA’s “Safest Place” Campaign during the last Presidential election is an example of a step in the right direction. However, to win over the Millennials and grow our numbers (shooting and hunting) a more humanistic, trust-building, fact and value-based approach will be required—not another glossy PR campaign.
Here are a couple of ideas and a framework you can use to contribute to the effort:
- Define your audience. What does your customer/audience want?
- Who is the villain in your story (or the problem you are trying to solve)?
Misinformation, government control, political agendas, anti-gun/anti-hunting sentiment, failed mental health programs?
- How can you guide your customers/audience to the solution?
Show the faces of real people in our communities (CCWs, LE, Vets, Pastors, Teachers, Firemen, Doctors, Moms, Dads, etc.) who are contributing to the desired solution. Tell the stories of how a firearm helped a family survive a home invasion. Or how Venison provides fresh organic field-to-plate protein to localvores. Show empathy and authority.
- What is the plan to get your audience to the solution?
What resources, events and actions need to be developed? How much will it cost?
- What are the direct (community involvement, donate, sign up, call your senator) or transitional (downloadable educational materials, webinars, attend a speaking event) calls to action?
- Explain what success and failure looks like.
Paint a person absent of the ability to protect him or herself—show what the difference would be.
- Show people how they can transform into something better: safer, more confident, healthier, active etc.
I encourage you (Industry Marketers) to consider incorporating the positive attributes of not only your products but industry contributions into your advertising. We are the messengers that shape opinion, attitudes, and culture. It’s upon us to communicate the positive attributes of our products for conservation, self-defense and the Second Amendment—without compromise—in the best positive light. Don’t just say we support these efforts—show your audience why. Allow those messages to permeate into the mainstream in greater frequency. We are the rescuers, the conservationists, the warriors and the people who want to protect, who fight for the good of others. It’s high time to take back the public square of opinion and confront those who’ve tarnished our good name in a respectful tone with more focus and effort.
5. Looking forward
2019 will be another turbulent year for our industry. More virtue signaling, boycotts, anti-gun/hunting protests, rants, and the upcoming Democratic primaries and Presidential election will keep our industry on the front burner. This turbulence will affect sales, marketing budgets, trade show attendance and our ability to plan for the future.
Use your platform to spread far and wide the positive attributes of our industry and the good-willed people in it.
Those are my thoughts; I’d be curious to know yours? Please comment below…
Josh Claflin, Principal at Garrison Everest, helps companies in the outdoor, active, tech and firearms industry who are struggling to develop clear brand messaging and increase revenue through online channels.