To: [Name redacted]
From: [Name redacted]
RE: Rebranding the NRA
[Name redacted], thanks again for your call. I'm really intrigued by the idea of taking on a project like the one we discussed -- rebranding the NRA. This could be a major opportunity to reshape public opinion about an organization that is increasingly under the gun, as you put it. It's a huge challenge and I think our team is up to it.
That said, this is not a time for retreat. If the NRA has been doubling down, well, now is the time to quadruple down or even quintuple down in regard to sticking to its principles. Toward that end, a few thoughts:
Remember when Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changed its name to KFC, once "fried" became a dirty word? People do refer to the National Rifle Association primarily by its initials, but of course "rifle" (which, let's face it, is such a tired, old-fashioned word) is what comes to mind when you get to the middle initial. I strongly suggest a more proactive approach than the one taken by KFC. There's a lot of equity built into the NRA initials, so we wouldn't want to abandon them, but what we can do is subtly tweak their meaning: The NRA becomes the National Re-Freedoming Association, an organization that bravely seeks to restore the Second Amendment freedoms being taken away from Americans.
The leadership branding issue
In our brief conversation, you assured me that my thoughts would be held in strictest confidence, so I'll speak bluntly: It's time for NRA CEO and Executive VP Wayne LaPierre to move on. Regardless of his record, he is the NRA's branding challenge personified. I mean, really, LaPierre? I don't want to call into question his citizenship (let's not go there), but I can guarantee you that with a name like LaPierre, true patriots are certainly wondering if he's the right man for the job. The NRA needs to avoid any perceptions of elitist, un-American tendencies.
"LaPierre" suggests not a stalwart opponent of freedom-raping gun-control measures, but a man who sips Beaujolais, consorts with mimes and carries around a canvas tote bag with one of those super long skinny breads sticking out of it. Regardless of how the NRA is actually managed on a day-to-day basis, for the public face of the organization, we should consider someone like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the popular and charismatic former pro wrestler and star of such films as "Doom" ("Space Marines are sent to investigate strange events at a research facility on Mars but find themselves at the mercy of genetically enhanced killing machines") and the upcoming "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."
I don't know about Mr. Johnson's personal position on gun control, but he clearly has no problem with wielding sundry weapons in his films, and nobody would suspect him of being French. (Although he is a bit ... non-pale. Is that a tan or is it, well, ethnicity? We would have to check before moving forward.) At any rate, Johnson is obviously a much manlier name than LaPierre.
Capturing the youth demographic
I'm well aware that the launch last month of the iOS shooting game "NRA: Practice Range" was met with predictable whining from the press, especially since the app was initially released for ages 4 and up. Although revising the age rating to 12 and older for "frequent, intense realistic violence," per Apple's App Store, was perhaps the right thing to do from a public-relations perspective, the NRA still needs to win the hearts and minds of pre-middle-school youngsters.
Youngsters love the internet, and, as I'm sure you know, the internet loves cats. It's time to retire the Eddie Eagle, star of such NRA videos as "Learn Gun Safety With Eddie Eagle," for children in pre-K through third grade. In his place? Introducing Shootsy, The Kitten Patriot. Cuddly and courageous, this feline freedom-lover will have major crossover appeal, earning "awwws" and awe from not only children, but their parents and grandparents. I'm attaching some preliminary sketches, a character backgrounder and a tentative merchandising plan for your review.
I'll leave you with these thoughts as a starting point. I look forward to speaking further about this exciting project!
MEDIA GUY'S GIVEAWAY OF THE WEEK: "Searching for Sugar Man," the amazing story of an obscure Detroit singer-songwriter named Rodriguez. When I first saw it in a theater, this joyful, moving documentary had me grinning like an idiot even as tears rolled down my cheeks. One of my favorite movies of 2012. Want a chance to win a copy of the newly released DVD? Details here: j.mp/sugarmandvd
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.
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