Call for Papers on “Firearm Markets, Marketing, and Society”

I have published a few articles/book chapters on gun advertising. My first was an analysis of the rise of Gun Culture 2.0 as reflected in The American Rifleman. I replicated that study using Guns magazine. And most recently examined the portrayal of women (and men) in the Rifleman. If we expand from advertising per se to the marketing of Gun Culture 2.0, then I can add my study of the USCCA’s Concealed Carrry Expo to the list.

Because most analyses of gun advertising are impressionistic (and politically motivated), I get quite a few calls from the media about it. Although I welcome the opportunity to correct misunderstandings about the content and effect of gun ads (e.g., Bushmaster’s “Man Card” campaign), I welcome even more a recent “call for papers” I received from a marketing professor, Terrence Witkowski.

Witkowski is guest editing a special issue of the Journal of Macromarketing on “Firearm Markets, Marketing, and Society.” See the full call for papers. The submission deadline is 28 February 2023.

Given time constraints, I do not know whether I will try to contribute. I do have some unpublished data in my American Rifleman and Guns magazine databases on the alleged militarization of gun culture that I would love to find a collaborator to help work up.

My own work aside, I would definitely like to see more serious research on the marketing of firearms. In particular, I hope some younger and more methodologically sophisticated scholars will turn their attention to advertising on social media. I have no idea how to “scrape” that data, but I know others do.

Images of the first two pages of the call follow.

9 thoughts on “Call for Papers on “Firearm Markets, Marketing, and Society”

  1. I can honestly say that not one of my firearms purchases has been influenced in the slightest by advertising.

    As a former marketing & promotion exec, I’m surprised the list of topic suggestions did not include target audience, or whether the objective of advertising is to create a desire to purchase, or merely influence make & model choice.


    • Although I have content analyzed gun ads, I am definitely not a specialist in marketing, though I do wonder how marketing departments and advertising agencies measure their effectiveness. E.g., the Bushmaster “Man Card” campaign failed miserably in encouraging disaffected young men to engage in mass shootings, but did it work in getting more people to buy Bushmaster ARs? It seems determining this could be difficult, and certainly asking people what influenced their purchases might be problematic insofar as we may not know everything that influences our consumption behavior. Sounds like you’re better placed to understand this than I am!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was taught that ‘advertising is a great way to spend money.’ There’s a scene in Mad Men, where Don Draper is escorting a newly-signed client out the lobby. The client asks, “So this will boost our sales?” Draper slaps him on the shoulder and laughs, “I have no idea!”

        There are no good ways to measure the effect of advertising. Too many confounding factors, for starters. One can conduct an ‘A/B’ split, where two different ads or coupons are run in different markets (or publications), to see which is relatively more effective.

        Advertising isn’t useless, especially for establishing brand recognition, but other marketing tools are generally more cost-effective. For the gun industry, an ad in Soldier of Fortune might pay for itself, but a booth at ShotShow will have broader & more lasting impact. Relations with dealers & big sporting goods chains are critical in a market like this. ‘Advertorials’ are also common: buy ad space, get an article or review in return — often written by you! Ever notice how every gun reviewed in Shooting Illustrated is flawless & wonderful? Video reviews are surely important nowadays, so handing out product to vloggers is a better use of budget than a print ad.

        Has there been any confirmed connection to that ill-considered Bushmaster campaign and any mass killers?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Further thoughts: I think gun buyers typically window shop without a specific make & model in mind. So the clerk at the gun shop has a lot of influence. Most gun culture magazines double as trade publications, so advertising new products in them, highlighting not just features but also the image/messaging/vibe, may be directed more at the vendor than the end buyer.

        I’ve noticed that ads for a particular gun, ostensibly independent video & print reviews of it, and its sudden appearance in every local gun shop and box chain, all happen in quick succession. I recall this pattern for, inter alia, the Heritage Barkeep, Ruger Wranger, Beretta Tomcat, Mossberg Shockwave, Mossberg MC pistol, Beretta 92A3 (last two not CA compliant, so no in-store availability to observe.)

        I have friends who work behind the counter in a gun room; I’ll ask them about this when I next get the chance.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Rossi Gallery gun and Walther P22 also recently fit this pattern. Both were recommended to friends by a clerk. I won’t belabor the point by adding any more that will surely come to mind. (BTW, pass on the P22.)

        Another method to drive sales is the release of limited edition versions of firearms through exclusive dealers — Talos, Bud’s, et al. Some regional advertising might occur, and always an arrangement to have the product featured in the dealer’s advertising, sales flyers, etc.

        Kimber is advertising a lot, highlighting their compliance with the CA roster, and seemingly to the individual customer. But Kimber is a mess, and advertising is often resorted to as a panacea. Daniels Defense also relies heavily on advertising. They are high-end, high-profit margin, dependent on establishing a cachet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I had the chance last week to chat at length with my friend in the gun room. He shared many interesting (to me, at least) details on distribution, order placing, his thought process for estimating demand before ordering, etc. It largely confirmed my hunch about advertising & marketing being focused more on distribution channels than the end consumer. My friend would be eager to speak with you, if you ever have specific questions or want to learn more in general about his end of the business.

        I also took photos of several point-of-purchase displays (a specialty of mine back in the day), and can share them if you are interested.


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