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A group of men and women walking through Target carrying various rifles
Don't worry, Target and Nabisco. I have no racist motivation. I just like to tenderly cradle packages of cookies that are black on the outside and white on the inside. And are made in Kenya by socialist Muslim terrorist Hitlers. Wink, wink.
What do you think of when you think of Open Carry Texas? Or more specifically, of their semi-rogue Tarrant County offshoot, made famous mostly by the work of the now-recognizable cat in the hat above, at right?

Most people think either of "gigantic guns" or "gigantic assholes," but that's not what we're here to talk about right now. And really, the guns aren't even what Open Carry Texas wants you to be talking about either. Because that's not the prize they're after. (They've already got plenty, as it is.)

What Open Carry Texas is after is the ability to leverage national, multibillion dollar brands and force them to do the one thing they hate doing more than anything in the world: get mixed up in controversial national politics.

I explained this m.o. in a series of tweets that Matt Shipman (@ShipLives on Twitter) was kind enough to Storify for me. Looking at them all together, it reads a little bit like a slide presentation for a brand managers' and corporate PR professionals' conference.

Come have a look at what I mean, below the fold.


While it's true that all the "fun" in these events for Open Carry Texas is in bringing their toys out to play, they could be doing that anywhere. And if the goal were simply to do it in public, they could do it easily enough on any sidewalk in town.

More important for store managers to remember, though, is Open Carry Texas are brand hijackers first & foremost.
When Open Carry Texas activists show up at a national brand's store, the guns are obviously integral to the messaging. But they also know that those guns serve a dual purpose. The guns themselves will also naturally be the chief concern of the store management, no matter how they might feel about guns personally. And that makes them forget about what Open Carry Texas is really getting away with. Not open carry itself, but hijacking and leveraging multibillion dollar brands with trophy photos that make viewers say not, "Wow, look at those guns!" but rather, "Wow, look at where those guns are!"
They take these trophy pictures because brand hijacking is more valuable to them than the political message.
In other words, to the manager (and other witnesses) on site, the main focus of the event appears to be the guns themselves. For everyone else viewing the event only through photos distributed online, the main focus of the event is the brand. "Look who's letting us do this! Look who's on our side! Soon you'll see us in your location!"
Yes, they have a political agenda. But they use YOUR BRAND to broadcast it, in their trophy photos.
Think about it. How many photos did you see of Open Carry Texas activists in that Chipotle? And how many photos did you see of them actually spending money there, and eating burritos? It's not as though using Instagram to tweet out photos of what you're eating is considered socially unacceptable! For a bunch of people who claim they're just out doing what regular people do, and bringing their guns along, their expeditions sure are long on photographic evidence of (someone else's) brand identity and short on photos of sales. Or long on bling, short on cha-ching, if you prefer.

Oh, lookee here. He bought himself a drink. Thanks, big spender!

Brands that think they're staying "neutral" in the gun debate are purposely hijacked for the trophy photos.
Think you can stay out of the politics by not allowing them on your property? Think again. Even if they're forced to take their triumphant photos in public spaces, they'll get your brand in the shot, and instead the message goes out saying your brand is an enemy of gun rights and the Constitution.
Even when they're not on your property, they make sure your brand logo is in the shot. Why?
Upscale. Downscale. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you've spent enough money on branding that people will recognize you in the pictures, and Open Carry Texas can score points off of all that money you spent, just by having their photos taken at your place.
Brands are unwillingly enlisted in exactly the kind of controversial political issues they spend big money to avoid.
A photo on the inside says you've agreed to let them in. And that reads not just as a win but as an endorsement. Nothing's better for them than a brand identity that's so recognizable that even candid shots give their location away. Thanks for putting all that money into store layouts and color schemes, guys!
Millions spent by @HomeDepot to ensure you'd know where this photo was taken. Mooched off them in the blink of an eye
And in the hospitality industry, it's bad business not to be friendly. But if this isn't supposed to represent an endorsement, who OKed this photo with staff?
They don't need pics of their guns. Facebook is full of them. They want photos that imply your brand's endorsement.
Again, don't get too hung up on the guns. I imagine most store managers know pretty well what they'd do if an "Impeach Obama" demonstration showed up at the door, wanting to march through the aisles with their signs and take pictures of themselves under the logo. Or with the staff. That wouldn't likely present a problem. The answer would simply be no, even if they didn't have the legal chops to be able to put a finger on exactly why they felt entitled to say no.

But with guns, getting to that easy answer is apparently much more difficult. It shouldn't be. Brand managers need to keep their eye on the ball. Even the Open Carry Texas activists aren't chiefly focused on the guns, so there's no reason for you to be. Don't bother thinking about gun policy. Think about protecting your brand.

So don't ask yourself, "Does my brand need a gun policy?" Ask yourself if you need a brand identity policy.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 08:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Firearms Law and Policy, Shut Down the NRA, and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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