I had been working in the defense industry a short time when I was introduced to the idea of launching a podcast. I was sold immediately. The combination of audio and video immediately satisfied two desperate needs in the firearms industry. As I began to think one of the biggest things holding back the firearms industry was always the inability to hear the great people of our industries stories. When compared to other industries we are behind.
The overwhelming issue in the firearms and defense community has many contributors. We have failed miserably an industry to innovate and get ahead of the curve with marketing and branding. We have sat back as managers and leaders and watched as energy drinks, cannabis and action sports have far surpassed us.
With entities like the NRA and the money of the defense industry why is it Monster Energy and Redbull have been able to pull off a completing branding and debranding strategy and be worth in the Billions of dollars? They have streaming services, podcasts and a multi pronged approach we couldn’t dream of having. We have several brands over 100 years old but we cannot figure it out why?
Managers and Owners are “old”
When I say old I do not mean it with disrespect I mean it in the thought process. A 30 year old can be “old”. For many years and when I first got in the business many of the marketing directors were old Ad buyers. People who were use to launching advertising campaigns. These people did not understand social media and failed to capture its true ability to catapult a business. As owners and managers realized social media was here to stay they began giving the social guys positions of prominence within brand structure. Finally the largest failure in the thought process. The failure to understand Ambassadors and Influencers and how to use them. Not understanding how to design programs that work leads to failure and people not understanding where to place blame.
We only see the now
We are fixated on Facebook and Instagram. Small pockets of companies have dabbled in YouTube. The only company creating consistent media on all platforms in our industry is Vortex Optics. Instead we stay fixated on Instagram and Facebook because we are addicted to it personally so we cannot see past it. During that time we are not spending enough time studying the changes in hardware. Hardware in tech is changing faster than ever. How many devices now are audio based in a home? Alexa, Apple Watch, SmartPhone and maybe even your TV. Think Audio will keep growing? How much audio SEO does your brand have? How about streaming? We have not made an attempt to get out in front of any of these in fact the NSSF announced it is teaching a Facebook marketing class. Think they are ahead or behind? I have had multiple meetings with brands that have the largest followings on social media and on email lists and when I meet the leadership the young social media or E manager is the most connected and the leadership has no idea what he does and even scarier an unwillingness to learn.
The biggest error was yet to come…
The most glaring error was the overwhelming reliance on outside help and not building internal marketing structure. Not hiring people that have a “creative” mindset and are willing to create consistent content programs that resonate with the market place. How much did the industry rely on videos and photos from consultant Ig agencies? I can guarantee that at one point or another each company in the firearms industry has relied on an outside agency to manage its media. This has a crucial mistake. I can name 10 + marketing agencies that cater specifically to the firearms business because of the giant hole left behind by the failure to grow internally. How did that same formula work out for the NRA? Overnight they lost every bit of content that was build over the previous 10 years with Ackerman McQueen.
Why can’t companies pick up where they left off? The template is there? Streaming, audio and video consistent content. It is cheaper not than ever. Why not?
The only way out of this is for companies to take a dramatic paradigm shift and adopt a progressive media mindset. The hope being that it creates a major course correction. Wayne Gretzky said “Skate to where the puck is going”. This is where companies need to begin. Steps:
Be critical of current practices.
Where are we weak that we can carve out a niche. YouTube? TikTok? Podcasting? Streaming?
Scaling is critical.
Hire someone that has a content creation plan. I have asked many marketing directors the question and many cannot answer it. All I get is “mag dumps sell guns”. That’s your plan?
If you are a larger entity some content creative teams need a certain degree of autonomy. Let them surprise you.
Hire more editors. As you get into Audio and video you better have a department that can chops clips or video and audio regularly. This is critical.
Work closely with your Influencers and ambassadors. Stop expecting to give them a muzzle brake and getting the world in return. That is not real life anymore.
If your not hiring people that can be in front of the camera now your already failing.
I hope this helps people understand where I see the current state of marketing in the defense industry. I really love this business and I know to overcome this it is going to take an incredible amount of ego suppression from owners and managers to listen.