Branding the Apocalypse
by Alex Kroll
It has become hip to become prepared.
"Prepping" is a growing industry. Outfitter Cabela's is capitalizing on it, growing from a low of about $5 a share in 2009 to today's current $52 with, among other items, backpacks, first-aid kits, camouflage, concentrated nutrition bars, edged weapons, multi-tools, signaling devices, anti-microbial water bottles and Mylar survival blankets.
But that's just for beginners. You can acquire military-grade night- and thermal-imaging systems, motion detectors and body armor online as well. Ammunition-maker Hornady has come out with a line of "Zombie Max" cartridges in popular calibers, successfully exploiting a novelty niche reopened by TV shows like AMC's Walking Dead, movies such as the innumerable remakes of Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead and Max Brooks' World War Z satires.
It's not just the private sector contributing to the mounting sense of chaos. "Threat Levels" and "If you see something, say something" campaigns and H1N1/hantavirus scares contribute, too. The National Security Agency's "Stellar Wind" total informational awareness project, the FBI's plans for nationwide facial recognition technologies plus the Department of Homeland Security's recent purchase of 450 million rounds of hollow-point pistol ammo perhaps means it's healthy to be skeptical of the good intentions of increasingly intrusive and revenue-strapped layers of government.
And speaking of "strapped," Americans are purchasing handguns, shotguns and rifles in record numbers. Smith & Wesson's revenues, according to Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal, "were $136 million versus estimates of just over $128.7 million." That makes S&W the star of the "Slow Recovery." Word-of-mouth's strong with this brand.
The Internet is alive with sites fostering ever more elaborate theories of dark collusion at the intersecting pinnacles of finance, governance and science. From advertiser-supported websites and talk show host Alex Jones to The Big Picture all the way to Zero Hedge you can learn about Illuminati, Freemasons, international finance, Gray Aliens, the “Government Conspiracy,” domestic drone policy, bullet-drop, night-vision, population-culling genetic experiments, and, on the extreme, way-out-there fringe, even sites suggesting a return to the gold standard.
And with a click, you can jump to sites that will sell you long-term storage food and non-genetically-modified seeds to turn your half-acre into a survival garden, or teach you how to reload your own ammo, or to perform basic dental surgery when, as they like to say, "The Sh*t Hits the Fan" (SHTF).
From a business standpoint, as Federal Reserve policy keeps prices rising ahead of a perhaps final dollar panic and government looks to run out of money, look for big opportunities in long-term food storage, home canning, hunting, natural remedies, generators, solar panels, and anything else that can make a family or neighborhood more self-reliant. As Gerald Celente of the Trends Research Institute expresses it, "People are preparing for the worst." And, as yet, no single brand has emerged as the go-to eschatological authority... with the possible exception of the highly authoritative Survival Blog.
It's the site that got me started.
See you there. And in total darkness, if necessary.
Alex Kroll (aka “Mr. X”) is a senior writer for Siegel+Gale’s New York office.