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Inchester Ammunition stopped making guns in 1981, long before Congress and plaintiffs lawyers started shooting blanks at the industry. The company continued to sell ammunition, but decided to put its energies into leveraging its name and image. Starting in 1993, Winchester began putting its name on knives, pepper spray, and dog beds — any product that could benefit from the company’s distinctive logo. Winchester did not embark on this crusade by itself. The company hired Leveraged Marketing Corporation of America (LMCA), a New York — based firm that helps companies “extend” their brands. Brand extension is the practice of licensing a brand into a related market, as a way for the licensor to collect revenue and gain recognition, and for the licensee to gain credibility. For example, Godiva and Starbucks don’t actually make their own ice creams — Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc., does, under license. But bullets and coffee beans present two different challenges. STRETCHING THE BRAND Winchester has a famous name, a well-known trademark — a galloping horse and rider — and a loyal clientele. The Winchester moniker already suggests such concepts as hunting and outdoor activity. And the marketing team saw an opportunity to extend the brand into the security and self-defense markets. The company sold ammunition to police departments, so why not sell them related safety gear? The challenge for Winchester and LMCA was to find companies in these markets that wanted to align with an ammunition company. Those efforts have paid off. Today, Professional Safety, Inc., makes Winchester police batons and shoe leather dye; Gerber Legendary Blades sells Winchester knives and tools; Clear Creek Company sells Winchester dog beds and rifle slings. There is a Winchester-brand safe and even Winchester-sponsored self-defense training program for police departments. Most licensees team up with Winchester for three to five years, and agree to give the company anywhere from 5 to 15 percent in royalties. Winchester can terminate licensing contracts if a licensee does not meet minimum sales and quality requirements. Vicki Boeker, Winchester’s licensing manager, negotiates the deals from the company’s East Alton, Illinois, headquarters, and Susan Fishbein, an in-house lawyer at Olin Corporation (Winchester’s parent company, which is based in Nor-walk, Connecticut), reviews the contracts. If complicated issues come up, they turn to Wiggin & Dana of New Haven. The brand extension program keeps extending. Look for a Winchester men’s fragrance to hit stores soon. General Motors Corporation is testing a Winchester options package for the Chevy Suburban. The vehicle is fire-truck red, with a horse and rider on the rear, metal work reminiscent of firearm engraving inside, and a built-in gun case for hunting. Although Winchester’s profit figures are not publicly available, company officials say that for every $2 in ammunition earnings, licensing provides about $1. (In 2002 Winchester had sales exceeding $280 million.) The future growth of the company turns largely on its branding campaign. “Licensing is probably the most important asset the company has,” Boeker says. THE RIGHT CONSTITUENCY In Europe, Winchester has pushed its brand image even further. It launched a designer jean line in France and a line of sunglasses in Spain. In other parts of Europe there are Winchester furs, watches, and women’s purses. “In Europe, people see Winchester not as an ammunition brand, but as a Western brand,” says Joe McGraw, Winchester’s business and product development director. Don’t look for Winchester jeans in Bloomingdale’s anytime soon. The Winchester brand sells better at Wal-Mart and Kmart than at up-scale department stores. Says McGraw: “[Winchester's] constituency is not one that is going to march against guns.” Alexandra Dell is a freelance writer living in New York City. E-mail:

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