Breaking a Gun's Story into Three Pieces

While Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun is a good, easy read, the book was not as easy to summarize because of its narrative structure. The book could have been divided into three, unequal parts.

In the first part, Barrett explained how the Austrian company founded and capitalized on an opportunity. The Austrian military wanted a new pistol. Glock, which never made guns, created a gun that was better than its competitors. Following the introduction, Glock implemented strong marketing programs to expand sales beyond Austria including entry into the United States.

In the second part, Barrett linked the relationship between gun violence and gun sales. With each mass killing spree, some members of Congress denounced gun violence while other members spoke of protecting gun owners’ rights. In turn, fearing a looming restriction on guns, new customers entered the gun market while current customers bought more guns. More gun violence ultimately generated more gun sales.

In the third part, Barrett shifted to Glock’s corporate drama. He recounts the various schemes the company employed to avoid paying taxes in the United States and Austria. Barrett also examined how two company lawyers defrauded money from Glock. Finally, Barrett reviewed the boardroom machinations.

Not surprisingly, the first section of the book resonated most given my position as a marketing faculty member. Gaston Glock, the company’s founder, hired excellent executives both in the United States and Austria. These people greatly assisted with Glock’s rise. Barrett ably communicates the contribution of these resources as part of Glock’s success.

Barrett also noted how Glock created a brand community for its product. In the American market, company executives understood the importance of sales to government agencies such as the FBI, military branches, and local police departments. The company initially allocated its resources toward these groups. Looking at these government agencies for cues for a good gun, consumers started buying Glocks.

The company invested in activities associated with the brand community. For example, the company started using booth babes at shows targeted to gun retailers. The company hosted training and selling seminars for government agencies at its American headquarters.

Despite the book’s reading level and content, the lack of a thesis became problematic. The book really was a collection of three, smaller books that were bound by a single product. The book’s subtitle, “The Rise of America’s Gun,” neatly summarized the problem.

The story focused on rise. Without a fall or a decline, the story lacked a tension. Even the rise contained mildly interesting nuggets. For example, Glock provided a multi-day sales and training experience that was capped with a night at a large strip club. Glock was not the only company to close a deal or cement a relationship with this approach.

However, there were no stories of corporate skullduggery, shenanigans, or malfeasance to suggest Glock achieved its positional advantage with something other than better marketing. Indeed, Barrett could have developed a book of marketing exemplars such as Glock, Toyota, Samsung, etc. to illustrate how better allocation of marketing resources allowed these firms to sell more product compared to its rivals.

Conversely, Barrett could have waited for Glock’s inevitable decline to revise the subtitle to “The Rise and Fall of America’s Gun.” The decline would have provided Barrett a stronger thesis and, ultimately, provided a better book.

Unlike Glock the gun, Glock the book is not better than the sum of its parts.