First of all, this is a love story. Not a super cheesy one like you would drag your significant other to in a theater somewhere, just a story of a consumer who found the brand for him. Some background first though; my love for knife collecting began with my grandfather. He had a bag of little, cheap pocket knives he had picked up over the years. Being a blue-collar worker his whole life, companies that he dealt with would give out pocket knives like some companies give out pens. Anyways, every now and then when I came over to help him do a project in his workshop, he would give me a pocket knife. That’s what started it all. I still remember the first knife I bought with my own money. It was the Integrity model from Browning’s Black Label line of knives that I bought from Gander Mountain in Knoxville, Tennessee. But that’s not the knife brand I fell in love with.
Later on when I started college, I had a friend who was also into knife collecting. The difference between us was that, while I was buying cheaper knives like SOG and Böker ($40-$50), he was buying Spyderco and Benchmade ($150+). During that time, I got a part-time job working at the library and had some expendable income. So, I got my friend to introduce me to the knife trading scene on Facebook sale groups and I traded some knives around until I got my first “high-end” knife. It was a Benchmade Adamas. There was a definite quality increase from my old SOG to this new Benchmade. However, this is not the knife brand I fell for.
My Discovery and Awareness
I held onto my Benchmade for a while, but besides owning a Benchmade there was not much more involvement for me. Once I broke the pocket clip, and Benchmade sent me a new clip for free which was pretty nice. One day though, while I was surfing through knife trader pages, I found a page called Emerson Operators. It was a page dedicated to people who owned Emerson pocket knives and it also provided a place for people to buy, sale, and trade those knives on the after-market. More surprisingly, the page was endorsed by the knife-maker himself, Ernie Emerson. I became interested and started looking for ways to get my hands on one.
Researching and Education
High-end knives cost anywhere upwards of $150 so it is important to make sure that you get what you want. Luckily, Emerson’s website was a treasure trove of information to help me make my purchasing decisions, as well as a variety of options to choose from. There were several models, each with a unique design, with more models being produced every year. Most of their knives contained Emerson’s special feature, the wave. Emerson’s wave technology allows the knife to be opened while drawing it from the pocket using a hook on the blade to catch on the pocket’s seam. This feature is compelling for people who want not only an everyday carry knife but also a tool for self-defense. Many knives also had a story behind their design (a soldier from Seal Teams 6 who participated in the Bin Laden raid was carrying an Emerson CQC-7) or a special cause that portions of proceeds from that knife would go to (mostly veterans and police causes).
One concern I had was knife size. I have bigger hands that dwarf the handle on some knives. Also, I am a little OCD about my knife designs and I want the blade to at least be as long as the handle. These two needs result in basically carrying around a pocket sword, and not a lot of brands do that right. On the Emerson website, their knife pages had the specifications that their knives were built to (which is pretty common for knife websites to have), but they also had a video helping you see the features and the size of the knives. These videos helped by giving viewers a 3-D view of the knife, while also showing the scale, and how the ergonomics worked by having someone hold the knife in the video. The videos also highlighted important specifications of the knife. These videos made me feel like I knew the product inside and out without physically holding it and that helped put my mind at ease.
Another thing I liked about Emerson as a brand was the overall brand message. They produced American made knives that had a unique design intended for hard use. Not only that but the company stands for traditional masculine principles. Growing up with a grandfather who liked westerns and action movies (as well as a grandfather who was larger-than-life himself), I looked up to these heroes and wanted to emulate their principles (helping those in need, strength and toughness, self-sacrifice, brotherhood, justice, etc.) Ernie Emerson upholds these tenets in his blog, his podcasts, and in special clubs related to Emerson knives (Order of the Black Shamrock).
These beliefs are also reflected in his products. Emerson sells t-shirts with mottos that capture the warrior spirit. Emerson supports social media communities dedicated to his product and he will frequently have give-aways or create special gear for the group. Special knives are made that celebrate law-enforcement, rescue personnel, and military service. It is refreshing to see someone who is so involved, genuine, and honest with their brand.
My First Purchase/ Wow! Now I’m a Brand Evangelist!
Soon I sold my Benchmade Adamas and easily found an Emerson Super Commander (the Commander series is basically the bread and butter of Emerson knives and it was also voted best knife design at Blade show in 2018) on the Emerson Operators page. I loved the design and the ergonomics of the handle. After that, Emerson provided gear that helped me sport my new knife brand, like a coffee mug, knife clips, and lanyards. Soon after, I got my second Emerson knife; a Journeyman model.
Now I have found myself purchasing from Emerson Knife Company on a pretty regular basis. I just bought my first Emerson shirt with the company’s “Famous in the worst of places” motto, and purchased an American flag knife clip with another knife lanyard for my Journeyman, so my everyday carry is truly my own. I also show my Emerson to my friends that have any interest in pocket knifes. Emerson pocket knives are just great to me.
Recently, it finally hit me what I was in the world of Emerson knives. I was a brand evangelist, but I didn’t set out for that to happen. I was just looking around at pocket knives when I found a product that could do it better than what I had.
So what is the moral of this story? Well, there are several. I wouldn’t have known about Emerson if it wasn’t for the community on Facebook. Being present and active on social media, especially in the communities that are interested in your product, is essential.
Also, you need to be constantly innovative, competitive, and also aware of your competition. Your competition can sweep in and take your customers. I thought that I was going to carry Benchmade exclusively (I still have a Benchmade and I like it, but Emerson is my go-to carry).
Good website design and content is equally important. People are looking for answers when they visit your website. Answering those questions in creative and easy-to-find ways on your website is paramount to selling your product.
Finally, building a brand that is relatable and likeable to your consumers is what brings customers back for more. Making the consumer feel like they are more than the next sale is what makes brand evangelists. When the customer agrees with your brand rather than just the product, that’s when they start buying t-shirts and gear. Then, they really advertise your brand. Emerson knives capitalized on each step of my journey as a buyer and if you want to create brand evangelists, so should you. Of course, if you need help marketing your product and creating brand evangelists, give us a call. I’m always looking for someone to help finance my new obsession.