On today’s episode, John speaks with SIG Sauer’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Tom Taylor about the enduring legacy of the SIG Sauer brand, the impact of COVID-19 on the market, and how to move the needle toward greater positive attitudes about gun-ownership.
Tom started driving a route truck for Coca-Cola in college. In the 80s, 90s, and the early aughts, it was by far the number one brand in the world. In that time, there were ways to market without necessarily asking “how cheap can I sell this,” Tom says. He started working with Smith & Wesson at a time marked by controversy, but they were able to build the brand. Today, Smith is the best brand in the industry based on consumer confidence studies. When Tom saw what the vision was at SIG Sauer, and the gap in their sales and marketing department, he jumped at the opportunity. Because SIG was hemorrhaging money, their CEO, Ron Cohen, downsized the company and re-strategized, expanding the company into ammo and optics. The German legacy of the brand helped, of course, but the question was “how do we make this a great American company?” One thing SIG does not do is discount their products: they’d rather invest that money in R&D to keep their quality standard high.
Tom offers advice to brands to maintain the course in the face of adversity. Sometimes it’s risky, but you need quality people on your team, and you have to be willing to ask the right questions to set yourself apart. This extends to military contracts as well, which can be “nauseating” in its sheer volume of data and paperwork. Government contracts are great, but they’re difficult to make money on, Tom advises.
Switching over to marketing, Tom divulges what has informed his marketing philosophy. He was moved particularly by Beretta’s “500 Years—1 Passion” ads. Success in marketing is about being consistent and studying other brands. It’s about being even-keeled and having a steady hand. But ultimately, there is no book. It takes a staff of people that are like-minded and passionate about it to be successful.
In designing the SIG Sauer CROSS bolt-action rifle, John suggests SIG is going to crush the market with a $1500 bolt rifle. SIG decided that the chassis gun is the wave of the future, and so they asked “how do we set ourselves apart?” By doing that, they were able to control costs. The premise was: how do we build an affordable gun that’s modular?” And the demand is overwhelming. Developed for the military, you’ll be able to zero your gun and range an elk at 600 or 700 yards with little to no guesswork. Before they even had a prototype in their hands, they saw the things that went into the product plan and knew that they had something to be excited about.
The ambassadors versus influencers discussion has captured SIG as well, and it informs the amount of advertising dollars that are spent. Whatever their qualifications are, SIG takes the roles of ambassador and influencer very differently, and that affects ambassador programs they try to run. Understanding the difference between ambassador and influencer is key.
John and Tom reflect on SIG’s Academy and the high level of instruction that happens there. John posits that the facility is unlike any in the world. Being in close proximity to the factory, the Academy acts as a great tool to run tests on their products, which increases the confidence in the company to put their guns against any other gun on the market. More training goes on at the SIG Sauer Academy in a month than in some of the other name brand academies in a calendar year.
Talking about the NSSF, Tom emphasizes that gun owners need to understand how important the NSSF has been in protecting their rights from their inception. In the last few weeks, they’ve done exemplary work getting the DHS to communicate with states to clarify their rules (or rectify them in some cases) and to keep the gun stores open across the country.
Tom says that what’s happening right now is changing the trajectory of gun rights going forward. People are learning that they need to arm themselves earlier than the panic buy moment, and they are going to be excited going forward to educate themselves about how to use them. And gun-ownership is not a tribe. No matter who it is, their decision to buy firearms is their right, and every purchase is positive and moves the needle toward national reciprocity a little.
1:00 — Introducing Tom Taylor.
2:30 — What Tom has taken away from different positions along his career.
6:30 — Why does SIG Sauer get it right? (German engineering and Swiss tech helps.)
12:45 – Why do some companies revert back to old ways in times of adversity?
17:30 — Tom’s advice to brands who are struggling to come back from mistakes.
21:20 — Are government contracts the be-all and end-all?
27:40 — Tom Taylor’s branding philosophy—staying the course in the face of hardship.
37:25 — The SIG Sauer CROSS and how it will change the market.
48:00 — SIG knew from the early design stages that they were on to something.
57:00 — Why brands have a hard time embracing ambassadors and influencers.
62:00 — The SIG Sauer Academy.
68:00 — Is SIG Sauer involved with the NSSF during the COVID-19 crisis?
73:30 — What stats are believable, and which are most important to SIG going forward?
80:00 — Gun-ownership is not tribalism; it’s a constitutional right we all have.
84:00 — Support of the NRA is not a requirement. Any movement from any demo is a win.
88:30 — Many thanks to Tom and SIG Sauer family.
- “The trigger was like dragging a rusty anchor down a gravel road.”
- “The first winning part of success is learning how to fail, and how to get up from failure.”
- “When leaders flinch, they go back on policy, and put their companies at risk.”
- “A lot of times, consumers don’t see the heartache along the way.”
- “We have fired 325,000 test rounds going through those military guns…imagine the work, and the cost, and the expense it takes to fire all those rounds.”
- “That’s what’s coming next, is red dots on pistols.”
- “Critical of SIG? You own six of ‘em!”
- “We want the world to have the ability to go hunting at those ranges at an affordable price.”
- “Part of our recipe for success is we respect our competitors, whether we like them or dislike them personally.”
- “[The Academy] is the gateway to our DNA, our soul.”
- “You got guys in New Jersey driving door to door handing out ammo…people have to know you’re out here fighting.”
- “If you’ve waited till the breaking point to purchase firearms to protect yourself, you’ve waited too long.”
- “The long-term impact here is really, really positive.”
Contact and Partners:
Check out our sponsor Volquartsen Firearms at www.volquartsen.com
CrossBreed Holsters: www.crossbreedholsters.com
Kenzie’s Optics: www.KenziesOptics.com
Microtech Knives: www.MicroTechKnives.com
Special thanks today to SIG Sauer!