In the aftermath of the tragedy in Sandy Hook, gun makers have been largely absent from the conversation about what should be done.
Before the shooting, however, Smith and Wesson’s CEO P. James Debney apparently wanted to bring more sophisticated marketing to the firearms market, to become more like a “consumer products company,” focused on market research, fast launches, and targeted marketing, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Debney told investors in September that old-style shotguns and bolt-action rifles were on the wane and the hunting market was “soft.” But semiautomatic rifles, known in the trade as “modern sporting rifles,” were “very, very popular,” he said. He also pointed to growth prospects from “a younger demographic” that “grew up playing video games” and was “very interested in firearms.”
No Smith & Wesson weapons were used in the shooting, but Debney has refused to comment about how the shooting will affect his industry. It’s clearly going to have to change his company’s communications and marketing.
Before, he could talk to investors about how excited the company was about an expanding user base, increasing “social acceptance” of fire arms, and how young men who grew up playing games like Call Of Duty could be a growth prospect.
Debney came from a consumer goods division of Alcoa, where he could talk about research and market trends without worrying about the social context. Now, nothing he says can just be about business. And Smith & Wesson certainly can’t market “modern sporting rifles” designed to appeal to young video gamers.