David Yamane has an interesting take on branding in the firearms training industry, and his takes are really, really good.
A few more thoughts:
- Past military experience is a brand, and right now, it’s a hugely effective one.
- One of the biggest brands in guns (if not THE biggest brand) is the National Rifle Association. What’s interesting is that rather than brand their latest training endeavor with the NRA itself, they have branded it with military training, not NRA training. What that says about the NRA’s confidence in their own training and/or the tensions between Fairfax and Alexandria remains to be discovered.
- Extraordinary brands are built on extraordinary products, and if your brand is yourself, that means you have to show you’re extraordinary in some way. This is a problem for the vast majority of schlubs out there who are terrific guys and good instructors but do not have time as a Special Operator or SWAT cop to talk about, you have to differentiate yourself in some way. There are ways around this. For example, John Corriea does it through showing his expertise on self-defense via his YouTube channel, and if his advice were incorrect, the internet would let him know he’s wrong. Boy howdy, would they let him know.
- Associating yourself with a brand influences others only to the degree that the parent brand is known as a household commodity. Serious shooters would know what a Contax G2 does versus an AE-1 Program and what that says about your commitment to photography, but most schmoes wouldn’t know that. The fact is, though, that very few trainers have spent the time to develop themselves as a public figure that people can look to as a source of reliable information. There are a bunch of reasons why this happens, and a few I can think of off the top of my head are:
- The firearms training industry takes its cues from military and law enforcement, and “glory hogs” are frowned upon (if not outright derided) in those fields.
- Firearms trainers tend to be focused on the process of teaching students, not promoting themselves (and I’m perfectly ok with that).
- There really isn’t a whole lot of “secret sauce” training out there to set one instructor apart from another. Suarez emphasizes shooting on the move, Pincus has a different take on sight picture than most people and Ayoob is the “go-to” person on self-defense and live-fire training, but other than that, we are taking about differences in personalities and methods of instruction, not the items they’re selling.
- An aversion to singularity. No one is “thinking different” yet and coming out with something unusual that shakes up the training industry such as the 300 Gullwing or the iPhone, because what firearms teachers are doing demands a high level of safety, and any “innovation” that breaks those rules can get people killed on the range LONG before they are killed on the streets.
All that being said, at least half of the trainers out there would be better off spending their time reading Seth Godin rather than Charles Askins, and learn how to be a better teacher rather than how to do a faster tactical reload.
Every trainer was a student before they were a trainer, and the temptation to continue down the path of gun learning that got you into the training industry, rather than change horses and learn about learning and become a better a trainer is mighty strong.