Three Business Takeaways from “Duck Dynasty”

In full disclosure, I am not a regular viewer of A & E’s “Duck Dynasty.” However, it feels like I have not missed an episode because it’s everywhere. I have seen their lottery ticket billboard on Binford Boulevard and the Duck Dynasty Chia head at CVS. It’s on the news. And everyone is talking about it on Facebook and Twitter. While digging deeper into the Duck Commander company and their rise as a cultural phenomenon, three business takeaways became evident.

Go with your instinct, be persistent, and be true to yourself:
The family patriarch, Phil Robertson, passed up an opportunity to play in the NFL after college to make duck calls from Louisiana cedar. Seems like a no brainer, right? Going with his instinct to pursue an interest outside the norm turned out to be an excellent choice, but it took a lot of hard work before getting his first big break.

During his first year in business, Phil did just $8,000 in sales while supporting a family of six. After nearly 40 years of following his passion and perfecting his product, it finally paid off. The Duck Dynasty television show based around Phil, his family, and their duck call business began airing in 2012 and produced $80 million in advertising sales and $400 million in merchandise sales last year alone.

Throughout the show’s airing, the family has stayed true to certain family traditions and religious values, which have been controversial at times. Yet, in some respects, the controversies have propelled them to even greater success.

Stick to what you do best:
The Robertson’s success is centered on their Duck Commander duck call. They did not complicate a product or direction that was working well for them. Instead they built on the success of their best-selling product and developed a variety of duck calls around that product to meet the many needs of consumers. Additionally, they have a selection of other products that complement the core brand, including hunting books, instructional DVDs, and hunting gear.

Incorporating his sons, particularly Willie who is credited with taking the business out of the bayou and into your nearest Cabela’s, propelled Phil’s passion into a blockbuster hit. Through bringing in family members with different skill sets, diversifying product lines, and navigating the rough waters of corporate America, Hollywood, and American politics, they could have easily lost sight of their core competencies. Rather, they excelled by remaining true to their values and what they do best.

Engage the consumer:
Upon visiting the Duck Commander website, one is quickly immersed into the world of duck hunting. And suddenly the visit becomes more than just a visit—it becomes an experience. From fan recipes to family photos, hunting information, and fan posts, the visitor is engaged at every level—even extending into the realm of social media.

Beyond the website, the family engages consumers at many different levels. Examples include a sponsorship at the Texas Motor Speedway, speaking engagements with various family members, a devotional book called “Faith Commander,” and collaborations with various musicians such as ZZ Top. The Duck Commander empire clearly has a far reach and consistently develops creative ways to engage a wide range audiences and demographics.

The Duck Dynasty empire may have originated from Phil’s passion and his instinct to pick duck calls over the NFL; it continues to thrive because the family sticks to what they know best and because of their engaging marketing initiatives that have continued to capture the attention of consumers across the country. Now it’s your turn to make the most out of what you were called to do.

Originally published in INside Edge on May 2, 2014.

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