The initial response to firearm maker Glock's "Glock Perform" apparel collection suggests the brand extension is lacking… performance.
Last year, we looked at how the once-exotic and prohibitively expensive Austrian handgun became a household name just months before the release of the book, Glock: The Rise of America's Gun.
Now, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the firearm-maker is letting brand fans show their pride through a line of Glock-branded clothing. By its own definition Glock Perform "supports your lifestyle" and provides "Confidence in any situation."
The Glock online store already offers a number of apparel choices, including sweatshirts, hats, jackets and t-shirts. But the Glock Perform line will "employ quality fabrics, updated fits and elevated designs." An early look at a few of the designs suggests Glock Perform will marry Under Armor-style sportswear and modern designs.
The full line will be available on April 12th. But for the last month Glock made six of the designs available online through an "exclusive pre-launch event." The five t-shirts and one hoodie featured Glock branding and, in two cases, modern Glock firearm designs.
Immediately, Glock's new brand extension faced two major problems. The first was pure execution. While the items themselves were not a bargain priced between $20 and $45, it was the shipping that got Glock consumers fired up.
On Glock's Facebook posts about the pre-sale, fans were shocked that FedEx Express was the only shipping option. This hiked the price of buying a $20 t-shirt with up to $14 in shipping charges.
When it comes to marketing, Glock has been tone deaf before. Last year, in the wake of the mass shooting in Arizona by Glock owner Jared Loughner at an event featuring now-former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, we looked at how Glock (and other firearm makers) were blind to the questionable image their brands were cultivating on social media like Facebook. But then, Glock exists in a "love it or hate it" industry where you can only please half the people at any time, so why not please the ones with all the guns?
Glock has a larger problem with its Glock Perform line. As one Glock page Facbook poster put it, "Rather not advertise my undergarment(s)."
This sentiment that wearing apparel that openly yelled "Glock" might spook some people and attract unwelcome attention was one widely shared by other firearm (and Glock) enthusiasts. The Serious Gun Blog balked at the idea of wearing the clothing, reasoning that "I like to blend in to the background." A Serious Gun Blog commenter concurred that "sometimes this apparel can garner unwanted attention from law enforcenment [sic]."
One law enforcement group that pays "unwanted attention" to such apparel designs is the TSA and airport security. Last year, a teenage girl was detained because her purse featured the logo of a six-shooter. A few years before that, another youth found himself the focus of flight authorities because his Transformers French Connection t-shirt featured a robot holding a gun.
Featuring detailed handgun designs, two of the pre-sale Glock Perform shirts would appear to maybe run afoul of TSA standards. Glock appears to have a disconnect between what's it's like in the vacuum of Glock HQ and the world in which actual Glock owners, especially those who conceal carry, live.
Impassioned firearm owners are often extremely brand loyal, so extending gun brands to full lifestyle lines makes a lot of sense from the brand's perspective. At the same time, gun ownership is unlike many other consumer activities; while Chrysler fans may be willing, even excited, about displaying their brand loyalty by wearing an "Imported from Detroit" t-shirt (the subject of a trademark dispute between a t-shirt brand and Chrysler, by the way) and advertising their consumption proclivities, firearm owners might not.
When it comes to fashion forward firearm brand extensions, Glock might look to Smith & Wesson. When that gunmaker recently extended its brand to higher-end apparel, it did so in a very suble fashion. For its jackets, the brand used an original vintage blueprint of a classic Smith & Wesson pistol design, but placed it only in the lining. Also, the jacket's zipper pull was made from the hammer of a classic S&W .45 caliber pistol.
An alternative idea comes from another commenter at the Serious Gun Blog: "I like the shirts at Endo that are REALLY subtle because only the REAL gunnies get them, and the guys who get them aren’t anybody you’re worried about." The "ENDO" (Everyday No Days Off) shirts the commenter referenced include a design incorporating the three settings of the AK-47 fire selector.
Not only do these more subtle accents attract less attention, they create more buzz between brand champions in the know.