With a background in making commemorative military knives and a strong law enforcement and tactical following, SOG Knives has now expanded into the hunting market.
Jerry Heinlen turned to a visitor at the SOG Specialty Knives & Tools booth at the 2013 SHOT Show with a smile on his face.
“This booth,” beamed Jerry, the new CEO of Seattle-based SOG, “is busy. Really busy.”
Indeed it was. The bustling booth was, in many ways, a microcosm of the company that has gone through a series of dynamic changes in recent years.
These changes have resulted in a stronger, bolder company ready to forge new ground and were most evident within a series of new products unveiled at SHOT Show that had retailers, sales representatives and the media buzzing.
A new era
To understand where SOG is going, you need to know where the firm is from.
Spencer and Gloria Frazer started the company in California in 1986. The start-up took its name from a covert US special ops unit that fought in Vietnam. That unit was known as ‘Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group’ (MACV-SOG). The MACV-SOG group had designed its own elegant Bowie knife – the MACV SOG Fighter.
It inspired Spencer, a young designer, to reproduce the original SOG Bowie and pay tribute to the special ops unit that created it.
Spencer and Gloria launched their product and company with a one-page, black-and-white ad in Soldier of Fortune Magazine of the S1 Bowie – their replica of the original. What began as a single commemorative model soon became a full line of innovative tools.
“We started our company,” said Spencer, “by having to sell a one-knife line at the very high price of $200 retail.”
SOG’s product line expanded and the company grew a following among the tactical and law-enforcement crowds. Frazer’s innovative designs and advancement of knife technology help attract fans.
The company moved to Lynwood, Washington, outside Seattle in the early 1990s and produced various knives – some field proven by US special forces and others honoured as the Navy SEAL knife of choice. Military and law enforcement sectors continue to account for a significant portion of SOG’s annual sales.
In 2009, SOG was sold to a private equity firm, which in turn sold the business to venture capitalists in 2011. While Spencer still serves as the lead designer, Jerry was installed as CEO and other management changes – like adding Nando Zucchi as the new vice-president of marketing – took place.
As a private company, SOG does not announce annual sales, other than to say that it’s in the double-digit millions.
New partnerships and product
What was driving traffic into the SOG booth at the 2013 SHOT Show, however, was more than new management. SOG started 2013 by introducing new products, branding, packaging and partnerships.
Essential to SOG’s new direction is its first line of knives dedicated specifically to hunters.
“SOG had enjoyed great success and customer loyalty in building our tactical, law enforcement and outdoor knives,” said Spencer. “We now take what we’ve done well and enter a new market – one that expects and demands and uses smartly designed knives.”
Also new to the 2013 line are a handful of everyday carry knives, backpack axes and a pair of knives made in collaboration with custom maker Jason Brous.
“These new products really add more depth to our already outstanding line of knives and tools,” said Nando.
SOG found its brand messaging striking a chord with the tactical crowd while working with R Lee Ermey ‘The Gunny’ as a brand ambassador.
This year SOG announced a new collaboration with Steven Rinella, author, outdoorsman and star of MeatEater on Sportsman Channel to help deliver its message to the hunting crowd.
SOG, meanwhile, will continue to work with The Gunny, staying true to the roots from where the company came.
Both Steven and The Gunny were among the throng in the SOG booth at SHOT Show, and both were drawing more fans in – a testament to the reputation the company has established in different market segments.
And if SHOT was any indication of where SOG is going, Steven and The Gunn – as well as Jerry – can expect to be busy for years to come.
SOG Speciality Knives & Tools
T: +1 425 771 6230