Stylish city-dwellers and fashionable young women aren’t exactly the first connections that come to mind when you mention the National Rifle Association (NRA). Even so, that’s exactly the image that the organization is cultivating with “Freestyle,” its new foray into the world of original video content.
Some have denounced the effort as opportunistic propaganda, while others point to the fact that the presenter in question achieved niche celebrity status long before the NRA came along. Although the original date of Colion Noir’s connection with the NRA is unclear, a (completely unscientific) look over his YouTube channel suggests that his current popularity dates back at least two years.
The more engaging question is whether this NRA rebranding effort could begin to change opinions about this polarizing organization?
At the association’s national convention in Indianapolis last month, EVP Wayne LaPierre made the case for a more inclusive NRA than mainstream media tends to portray. He said this was:
“A gathering—and you know we are—of all ages, all political parties, races, all religions. A gathering of people who just love our great nation.”
Of course branding is firmly rooted in perception, and regardless of political bias, the prevailing image of the NRA is not one of diversity and tolerance.
The desire to rebrand the organization from radical to refined is understandable, given the wider national back-and-forth over gun control vs. protection of the Second Amendment and another election season looming large on the horizon.
The means the organization has chosen to communicate this change of image are also fundamental to an emerging trend in brand management.
Brands Aren’t Just Publishers, They’re Producers
The Freestyle web video channel marks a powerful new tool in the locker of brand managers: exclusive original programming.
We all see just how fractured the entertainment industry has become as digital platforms challenge traditional broadcasters. Now all points of view can be aired not only on personal blogs and Facebook pages, but with sharply produced video content and engaging social media presence.
Perhaps the most forward-thinking element of the NRA is its embrace of this nascent trend, where many younger viewers are to be found. Moving to a less controversial name, the likes of Red Bull show us just how far some big brands are diving into a deep investment in content production.With a dedicated “Media House” it is blazing a trail into this brave new world of branding.
If the NRA comes anywhere close to following Red Bull’s conceptual lead, its rebranding effort may not seem quite so radical after all.