Daniel Defense would do well to rethink its sickening marketing and advertising approach

The following is from this week’s Savannah Town Square opinion newsletter. Get the newsletter in your inbox by signing up at profile.savannahnow.com/newsletters/manage/.

A not-so-secret fact about product marketing is the pitch often says more about the company than the good or service it provides.

Judging by Daniel Defense’s marketing strategy, the locally based firearms manufacturer is the sociopath next door.

Daniel Defense has been under scrutiny since one of their products, a semi-automatic assault rifle, was used in the Uvalde, Texas school shooting last week. An 18-year-old man killed 21 students and teachers in the attack.

Daniel Defense: Gun used in Texas school shooting made by Bryan County’s Daniel Defense

Marty Daniel, head of Daniel Defense, holds the Version 1 of his products at the Bryan County facility.

Marty Daniel, head of Daniel Defense, holds the Version 1 of his products at the Bryan County facility.

As word spread that the gun was one of Daniel’s, the public began to research the company. What’s been found is a series of disturbing ads that are tone deaf at best, predatory at worst.

A spot released in mid-May showed a young boy examining a Daniel Defense rifle while an adult offers instruction, along with a caption that reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The words are from the Bible.

Other Daniel Defense marketing collateral is designed to appeal to young consumers, particularly fans of shoot-’em-up video games such as “Call of Duty.” Daniel also has shown a willingness to go for shock value with its ads, mixing Christian images and messages into its product pitches. One Daniel ad was deemed so inappropriate it was rejected for a Super Bowl slot.

Read more: AR rifle maker tied to Texas school shooting facing scrutiny, possible future lawsuits

For a company that sells its products direct to the public through its website, the marketing is reprehensible. Daniel is glamorizing assault weapon ownership in much the same way tobacco companies once did cigarettes – and we know how that ultimately turned out for the cancer-stick sellers.

This marketing isn’t about hunting or home defense or sport shooting; it’s a dog whistle to young men who want to possess the military-grade weapons they’ve grown up firing virtually on their game console or computer.

That may be good business from a sales perspective, but when your product is designed specifically to kill, do you not have a moral obligation to promote it responsibly?

Lawmakers are wondering the same thing. A U.S. House Oversight Committee is investigating Daniel Defense’s advertising practices, among other things.

Daniel Defense is a local company that employs many Savannah-area residents. But the company is far from a good neighbor.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Daniel Defense caters product ads to young, impressionable consumers