By Taylor Smithfield
“Nerves. They fray with even the slightest hint of danger,” a narrator’s gritty voice is heard over a scene of a man in athletic gear jumping in place — no doubt psyching himself up — followed by a close-up of a woman breathing deeply, mentally preparing herself. Itchy fingers draw handguns, dig into mountainsides, wield wood-splitting axes and make determined fists.
“On November 1st,” the movie trailer-like voiceover continues, “Springfield Armory will introduce the first gun in a new line of firearms, designed for people who are ready for the challenge.” The 40-second video fades to black, a backdrop for simple white text: “Springfield Armory SAINT, Coming 11/1/16.”
This video is one of several in Springfield Armory’s recent marketing campaign, “Defend Your Legacy,” created to build momentum for the release of their new firearms line intriguingly called SAINT. An entire website dedicated to the campaign features powerful stories of the men and women highlighted in their videos. Glistening with sweat, their portraits determinedly stare back at you on the website’s homepage as a clock counts down to the launch date: November 1st.
“Since 1794, we’ve built our legacy by making firearms for the independent and the free,” a headline on the website reads. “Our Legacy continues.” The message is clear: We’ve been defending our country and ourselves for hundreds of years. There’s a new breed of men and women who must now carry the mantle.
In The Gym And On The Range
Holly, Brock, Tracy, Edward, Alex and so on — these are the young faces of Springfield’s new plan to shake up their current customer lineup. Instead of typical tactical khaki, the SAINT crew dons Under Armour, looking ready to hit the gym rather than the range. And you could easily think this if some of them weren’t wearing shooting glasses. However, while the spandex-clad look is decidedly different, it’s appealing, fearless and perfect for the 30-year-old CrossFit-doing, adventure-seeking, mountain-climbing, marathon-running male or female consumer.
Holly is a perpetual wanderer who explores the country from behind the wheel of her Jeep turned camper affectionately named “Miss Tina.” Brock is a personal trainer who practices Muay Thai and dreams of living on a ranch and raising a family. Tracy, the daughter of a Marine, spends every bit of her free time in the gym (you know, when she’s not lifting heavy objects at her day job). Edward is an IT manager by day and a CrossFitter by night. And by far their most notable spokesperson, Alex, is an Instagram sensation with nearly 150,000 followers (@alex_zedra). The athlete, gun lover and gamer regularly posts photos with her favorite accessory: an MSR. Piggybacking off her fanbase, Springfield can easily reach more potential customers, and partnering with tough, young, active and real individuals is a genius strategy.
A Timely Campaign
SAINT’s launch date is still impending as I write this column — but has come and passed for you — and the mysterious gun is no longer a mystery. However, the weeks leading up to its release certainly caused a stir on Springfield Armory’s Facebook page and other online outlets. On one particular discussion forum, commenters were split over the Defend Your Legacy message. While some questioned the relevancy of the campaign (“I tried to watch the ads and it looks more like a Nike commercial.”) or its effectiveness (“I just want to see the gun. I could care less about their stupid drawn out marketing campaign.”), others stepped up to defend its timeliness.
“I think the ads are brilliant,” JoeFriday comments. “Remember while all of us on this site are ‘gun people’ there are millions of people out there who are not but who are starting to realize they shouldn’t rely on the government for protection. I applaud SA for a marketing plan that might reach new people, and a demographic often opposing the Second Amendment. I hope they convert every Millennial into a freedom/gun lover.”
Other users shared the same concerns regarding the political climate. “If we don’t get younger people into self defense and shooting sports, we’ll be overwhelmingly outnumbered on election day,” explains AlchemyCustom. User Yeti comically pointed out: “Us fashion unconscious geezers may not buy that particular item, but if it expands the 2A base, it is a smart business move for Springfield.”
With the late-2016 introduction of the SAINT, Springfield Armory has entered
the MSR-style market. Through its marketing efforts, the company is clearly
targeting a younger demographic of rugged outdoor enthusiasts.
Springfield no doubt expected some customers to split over the campaign’s messaging. However, their strategy is a promising step forward in the effort to open up shooting sports to a broader base. While some will inevitably roll their eyes at the ads, others will draw inspiration from them and some will have the courage to step foot on a range for the first time. It’s a genius way to tap into a ready-made subset of customers — athletes who already possess the fire and grit to sling lead.
In addition to the campaign’s strong message, the method of delivery is equally powerful. As we’ve previously discussed in this column, good market-ing creates experiences for customers, targeting their emotions first and foremost. This tactic may sometimes seem a bit wishy-washy, but a cause that “grabs the heart” is extremely effective, especially for today’s younger consumer. Keep this in mind as you draft marketing plans for this New Year. Trust me, there are plenty of customers, just like Holly, Brock, Tracy, Edward and Alex who are more than likely ready for the challenge.