I have been in marketing, public relations, advertising and branding my whole career. I was once even the CEO of a marketing consulting firm. I was working as the marketing and communications director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in 2006 when an angry, armed-to-the-teeth man broke into our offices and shot me and five of my co-workers, killing one. I was gravely wounded, but I survived. I am not the same person I was before. Everything changes when something of that magnitude happens to you.  But I still know brilliant marketing when I see it.

The National Rifle Association is a brilliant marketing organization. On behalf of its clients—gun manufacturers--it has successfully deployed a genius marketing strategy centered around a core emotion—fear. Up until the late 70’s, the NRA was focused on gun safety—training everyone from Boy Scouts to hunters how to safely own and operate firearms. But promoting gun safety is a problem if you are a gun manufacturer and want to sell more guns. Promoting gun safety is based on the reality that guns are dangerous.  And “Guns Are Dangerous” is not a tagline that helps sell more guns.

But fear sells, it definitely sells, if you can shift the focus of fear to something that motivates people to buy your product, instead of avoid it. So the NRA has been running a campaign telling Americans to be afraid of their government, to be afraid that their government wants to take away their rights, starting with their right to bear arms. It’s a lie. They have been lying and manipulating the American public. As a result, gun sales are soaring. They have done what most marketers dream of doing—they have grown the market for their product category. They have created a whole new market segment. If the whole thing wasn’t so disgusting and amoral, I’d nominate them for an award.

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    January 2013