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Gun Control Needs a Brand

By Will Novosedlik

Gun control advocates are on the side of the angels. Now they need to develop a brand to combat the propaganda perpetrated by a minority of loudmouth bigots


NRA ad showing obama


Since December 14, 2012, the day of the Newtown shooting, America has been convulsed in a highly charged debate about what appears to the rest of the world to be a glaring need for gun control.


This is not the first time a mass shooting or assassination has reopened the argument, but it is becoming the one most fiercely waged to date. And so far the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, owns the debate hands down.


The gun lobby’s brand is built on inflammatory rhetoric, distorted constitutional logic and deep-rooted political influence. Its messages are often blatant lies crafted by paranoid ideologues, as can be seen in the example immediately below. Displaying a monstrous lack of compassion, this message was posted by the National Gun Rights Association just days after the Newtown shooting. When seen with the chart below it, the audacity of the NAGR’s lie is exceeded only by the callousness of its timing.


NRA ad


gun deaths by state


The fact is that states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114 per cent higher than those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Despite the fact that more than 1,500 people have been killed by guns in the United States since Newtown, the gun lobby, led by the NRA, is the leading brand in this war of words and images.


One of the more misguided rhetorical twists of this campaign is the radical right’s effort to paint gun control advocates as communists and fascists. After President Obama promised to use his executive powers to impose new gun controls, the gun lobby has liberally misappropriated the visual language of Bolshevik propaganda to denounce him as a dictator cut from the same cloth as Stalin and Hitler. I really want to believe that the average American is intelligent enough not to fall for this crap, but you know how the saying goes: if your repeat something often enough, people will start to believe it. Or at least subconsciously internalize it.


fascism you can believe in


The gun lobby has been consistent, relentless and focused in its messaging and its abuse of the Second Amendment. But if 74 per cent of Americans favour a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and most support stricter gun controls, where, I ask, is the gun control brand? 


There has certainly been an explosion of journalistic responses to the lies and propaganda perpetrated by the gun lobby. Most of it is cogent and well researched, compared to the flat-out, unapologetic rhetoric served up by the NRA and its cohort. But there has been no concerted effort to engage with the NRA in the world of paid media or social media. And let’s face it, people don’t take the time to read long articles. They need sound bites. 


If the bad guys are going to continue to have the loudest voice in this arena, the good guys need a brand. So here’s an idea: wouldn’t it be a fantastic thing if some of the most creative minds in the business, the leading lights of marketing communications and media, the art directors, writers, brand strategists, designers and digerati got together to right the wrongs being perpetrated by a minority of loudmouthed bigots? 


Here’s a chance for the creative elite to make a brand with real, tangible value. One that might even save some lives and make America safe for democracy again. 


Will Novosedlik has worked on brands both as a consultant and as a client in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. These brands include Nestlé Canada, Corby Distilleries, Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s, RSA Security, Bata International, Deutsche Telecom, Butterfield and Robinson, Telus Business Solutions, Vodafone and The Reitman Group. Recently, Novosedlik led the brand communications and customer experience teams that launched the WIND Mobile brand in Canada. He currently works as the VP Design Thinking & Brand at Idea Couture.





Josh Sieders

February 13, 2013 02:28 PM


Great article - I wholeheartedly agree that gun control needs a brand. They're letting their opponents frame the debate and they will lose as a result.

However, I take issue with your use of the word bigot. Why do we have to vilify everyone who disagrees with us in this way? In fact, I could argue that you're being a bigot and using the same inflammatory approach that you decry in your article.

Come on. You're a marketer. We know that words matter. We don't have to demonize eachother to get our points across. We can disagree without hate.



will novosedlik

February 14, 2013 10:09 AM


Thanks for your comment, Josh.

First thing you need to know about me is, I don't take words lightly. Second thing you need to do is read this:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices


a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race

Take a minute to read what supporters of gun ownership are saying. I think you'll agree that when it comes to demonization, these guys are experts at it. And as far as intolerance of other people's ideas about guns go, these guys are prepared to load their clips and shoot anyone who disagrees.

So who's the demon in this conversation?

I rest my case.




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