Bushnell has been in the hunting optics business for more than 65 years. In that time, its participation in the SHOT Show has been vital to its performance in each coming year. For characters like Jacob Edson, who came to the brand from the print media side of the outdoor industry, the experience of representing a longstanding piece of Americana has been quite a rewarding ride.
Kevin Tate (KT): Tell me a little bit about how you came to work for Bushnell and how differently things go at SHOT now that you’ve crossed over from media to representing an iconic brand.
Jacob Edson (JE): I was a magazine editor for 10 years. I edited Wisconsin Outdoor Journal, and I was a managing editor for Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine. For 10 years I attended SHOT Show as an editor, and then I got a job with, at the time, ATK. Three years after ATK purchased Bushnell I went to work for that brand.
KT: Tell me about your very first SHOT Show experience. What did you think, and was it what you expected?
JE: My very first experience was when I was a magazine editor, so I was walking the floor and I had my whole list of new products that I had to cover. The size of it just blew me away the first time that I was there, and it's interesting coming from the other side of it now. I stay in the booth, and I don't get to get out and check everything out, and I kind of miss that. When I was a magazine editor, at the end of the day I had that one-mile stare and just was droning through the aisles, not even really knowing where to look because there was so much there. Now that I’m in one place all day, I want to go out and meet with friends and go check out other booths, but I don't get to do that as much. It's kind of funny, the dichotomy there.
KT: What would you say has been Bushnell's most effective product launch at SHOT Show?
JE: We’ve had a huge year because of a fun thing Bushnell did last year at SHOT Show. We had a secret, invite-only room in our booth. We had all the top editors come in and check out new prototypes on a secret, embargoed-only basis. We invited a lot of people, a very large chunk of the industry, into that room and showed off all of our products and really got a big buy-in from the industry even before we were ready to launch those products.
This year has been really busy leading up to the 2019 show, where we’ll actually launch those three new Bushnell hunting lines, the Prime, Nitro and Forge — and of course, this year at SHOT Show they’ll be for everybody to see and not just in our secret room.
Before that, I would say our elite, one-mile CONX rangefinder was probably our biggest SHOT Show product launch. That was the rangefinder that has Bluetooth capability, so it can talk with a Kestrel windspeed unit. That’s noteworthy because that's a relationship that was born at SHOT Show. You go have conversations with other companies who have technologies that you might see fit with your own products. That’s an opportunity only SHOT Show offers.
KT: Is there one particular mistake or error through the years you've witnessed that you could offer as a cautionary tale?
JE: There are often things you see when people come to SHOT Show not quite prepared to launch a product. They don't really understand that once you bring it to SHOT Show, you are showing it to the entire industry, making the only first impression with that product that you will get. You're saying, “This is what we're doing for the year.”
KT: What’s the fix for that with a show this big and that important?
JE: I think it's really just about planning. SHOT Show is such a big deal, and there's so many important people there. You really need to plan your time ahead. You need to schedule appointments. You need to sit down with your team and talk about your goals for SHOT Show. That's something we do. We sit down and we say, “Okay, well, this year our goal is to announce this product to the industry,” or maybe, “This year our goal is to increase sales on a certain product line,” or, “This year our goal is to really work on our branding for all audiences.” Really, if you want to get what a return for your time at the show, you have to just sit down before the show and go through your goals.
SHOT Show it is the place where everything happens in our industry. It is the starting point for everyone's year. It is the start of our product year, just as I think it is for the whole industry. It's the kickoff for that whole year, and it really sets the tone for what’s going to take place that year for you.