Every year in January, the firearms industry convenes at SHOT Show to showcase new products and conduct business. It’s a crazy week, full of much to see. After a few years, it seems that maybe someone has a new banner or branding, but there’s a lot going on in the firearms industry that doesn’t seem to change. I want to share why a little change might be a good thing for the industry.
Sponsored by Jagemann Sporting Group
A colleague shared the quote: “If you fear change, leave it in the tip jar.” And to be quite honest, I think it fits the firearms industry. There is a lot of fear of changing the way things are done, just because they’ve been done this way for years. And it’s often without any reason other than nobody has tried to change. It’s as if they not only fear change, but also are telling everyone else to avoid it, too.
Some of the same thinking that has been around for decades is part of what doesn’t change. New products are created, new assets are required. So, hire a model who doesn’t know about x product, take flashy photos … wonder why or if that works. Listen to people talk about how ROI can’t be measured by clicks, likes, email lists, or subscription numbers from magazines said advertising is placed in. End up feeling that with advertising, you can’t really know anything, so you better just keep doing what you are doing.
One of the most disturbing things that has not changed as universally, as it should, among people who should be promoting the 2nd Amendment, is the continual use of poor judgement in how content is created. From the obvious ad with a model who knows nothing about how to hold a gun while her thumb drags on the slide, to the lack of eye pro on someone standing on a range holding a firearm … one of the biggest things that needs to change is the use of women as props. If you hire a model or an Instagram celebrity – and these women don’t have a clue about gun safety – to endorse your product, you are doing this wrong. If your customer base is hunters, would you hire a Victoria’s Secret model to demo your hunting gun? Why are brands using women who are obviously nothing more than props, and why doesn’t the industry call them on it?
This isn’t hating-on-a-pretty-face that a company wants to use in its ad campaign … but there are plenty of women out there who ACTUALLY know about the brands and products, and actually use guns. They are beautiful in their confidence and strength. There is no good reason to treat your consumers as if they are too stupid to know the difference. A better practice is to create content with partners and people already in your industry and associated with your brand. Then, promote that content through social media.
If your brand is about luxury shotguns, partnering with someone who excels with your gun makes sense, instead of a model who doesn’t know anything about using a shotgun. It makes your brand appear as if someone making decisions decided to forego thinking about who actually uses their product over who they’d like to invite to dinner or have in front of a camera.
As females in the firearms industry, we should demand better of the brands. We don’t see FNH showcasing girls in Hooters outfits in their marketing. We don’t see companies like IWI using the latest female Insta-tactical-girl to hawk their wares. Why? Because much of their sales are to military and law enforcement. Smart brands know that a tacti-girl or a random model without eye pro (but wearing killer tee-shirt fillers) isn’t someone their customers trust. Customers want to identify with a brand, not ogle it.
Above and beyond advertising, there are women in the firearms industry who work to actually build products and grow their industry. They work. They are not props. I saw so many fine examples at the recent SHOT Show.
Getting back to change and what we as women can do better … I can relate a story about an industry professional whom I think echoes the work of women in the firearms industry: Amy Jagemann. She is a mother with young children who travels from out of state to work in marketing at her husband’s family’s business, Jagemann Sporting Group. She was at a Project ChildSafe event at SHOT, with a bag of aftermarket magazines (one item their company makes). She was like the fairy godmother of colorful GLOCK mags, and shared them with women — not because she thought young lady X has 1 million Instagram followers, but because she believes in sharing her family’s business with other women who are writing about and sharing firearms with others. She believes in genuine ambassadors and people focused not on how much they get for their celebrity appearances, but women who actually work in the firearms industry.
As someone who’s been around not just shooting sports, but also firearms from the manufacturing side of life, since the 1980s, I don’t want to see young women think they have to put on a skin show to build a brand or share what they love. I want to see women in the firearms industry grow into true professionals. The women who think they’ve “made it” by scoring a deal repping X brand need to realize that their paychecks are coming from the women with bags of aftermarket mags, or the women running the office of their family manufacturing business. There are literally thousands of women in the firearms industry who never go to SHOT Show, and if they went, their first concern wouldn’t be “What parties should I go to?” They would be asking, “What work can I do? Who will I meet? How can I make a difference?”
We can all do more to enact a positive change in the firearms industry. We should expect critical thinking, where actual work, not likes or follows on social media, determines value. We should expect that women be treated as end users; a population segment to market to, not used as props.