Sometimes I have to wonder if the gun industry knows its buyers anymore.

So there I am earlier this year, sitting on the set of Risk and Reward on Fox Business, getting ready for an interview about Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to stop selling “assault style rifles”.

At first, as the CEO of a marketing agency, I had to question the decision of a company to tick off its target demographic.

And then it hit me. The target demographic for Dick’s isn’t gun buyers.  After all, how many of us go to Dick’s to buy guns?  Not this guy.

Dick’s Sporting Goods removed ‘assault-style’ rifles from shelves in early 2018. (Wikimedia Commons)

No, their target demographic is soccer moms looking for cleats for their kids.  And more likely than not, it’s a market that tends to skew liberal and is more afraid of guns than it is embracing of them.

Shortly after, Dick’s announced they’d be DESTROYING the rifles.  And in that moment… they lost an opportunity to reach a new demographic… and so did the gun industry.

How is it that not a single gun manufacturer called out Dick’s on this move?  It would have been a simple and strong statement and, for that matter, a powerful public relations play.  “Why doesn’t Dick’s, instead of destroying the rifles, donate them to underfunded police departments?”

After all, doesn’t a company like Dick’s support law enforcement?  Don’t they want to help protect citizens?

I bounced this around with several manufacturers and the response was always the same: “We don’t want to get political.  It might hurt sales.”

Please, America, join me for a collective eye roll.

You are a gun manufacturer. By definition, you’re already part of one of the biggest political debates in our country.

And yet you are concerned that you’re going to tick off people who are never going to buy a gun from you?  For making a statement encouraging another company to support law enforcement?

Can ANYONE help me understand that?

The first rule of marketing is to understand your target market.  The second is to then craft messaging that engages that demographic.

Allow me to offer an analogy.

A restaurant that offers steak, chicken and salads caves to PETA and announces that it’s going to stop selling meat… directly impacting the butcher that provides the meat.  The restaurant says it’s going to destroy all of the remaining chick and steak.

Should the butcher be afraid to call out the restaurant and tell them to donate the meat to a food bank because the butcher is afraid of losing business from vegans?

Of course not.

So why is it that not a single gun manufacturer was willing to call out Dick’s for the hypocrisy of a decision to remove guns from society to protect people … when those very guns could have been donated to police to protect people?

I’ll tell you what. Had a gun manufacturer stepped up and called out Dick’s for missing out an opportunity to support police officers… that company would be crushing it right now.  Their sales would have surged.

Instead… countless gun executives are sitting around trying to figure out how to avoid the very positive controversy that could be driving sales… and wanting to know why their sales are in the toilet.

It’s one of the topics I’ll be discussing in my keynote at the Executive Summit at SHOT Show in January. I hope to see you all there. We’ll be diving into public relations opportunities, social media influencers and how to navigate the new digital age to drive sales.

It’s time to reinvent how we’re having conversations in America surrounding law enforcement and the firearms industry in an age where all of the rules have gone out the window.