THE AWARD-WINNING FACTORY KNIFE COMPANY UNDERGOES A BRAND REFRESH IN 2020
The year was 1986. The Soviet Union hosted its first Goodwill Games. Halley’s Comet was visible from Earth for the first time in 76 years. Up to 6.5 million people participated in a charity event called Hands Across America. Phantom of the Opera premiered in London’s West End. And SOG Specialty Knives—aka SOG—made its debut.
The first SOG-brand knife was a reproduction of the original SOG Bowie in tribute to the Studies and Observations Group* of Vietnam War fame. Eventually, the SOG Specialty Knives line grew to include knives mass produced with attention to detail and quality. Today, the company has grown into an innovative, major player whose products are among the leading choices of Navy SEALs and other military, law enforcement, fire and rescue, tradesmen and everyday knife users the world over. Folders, fixed blades, flashlights, multi-tools and gear— SOG has you covered.
Over the years, it’s only natural that a knife company keeps growing in size and product offerings, constantly evolving itself and its knives. SOG has kept moving forward, and 2020 marks a significant milestone in the company’s evolution: a prominent revamp of sales and marketing strategies, a refresh of existing models and an engineering of new ones to further meet the demands of those who serve and keep us safe, as well as the needs of everyday knife consumers.
The architect for the brand refresh is Jonathan Wegner, company brand vice president. “We’ve taken the best things from the last three decades, and doubled down on the things that we feel are most relevant to our end users today and into the future,” he explains, “and are focused on delivering solutions that are authentic to the brand.”
Why the transformation? According to Wegner, consumers reported that the company’s more recent focus and quality were not there. Many stated their idea of SOG was from an era that is now past, when the company brought some innovative ideas to market and was driven to produce the best knives and tools for tactical and other consumers. “So, by first studying and observing ourselves, we were able to determine that a significant change was needed,” Wegner notes. “Most of this led to our reposition and future focus.”
SOG founder and president Spencer Frazer was the primary driving force behind the company and many of its product designs, from its inception until a couple of years ago when Joe McSwiney was hired to lead the outfit.
“Spencer was involved throughout the brand refresh process, and a lot of what we have done with the brand hearkens back to his original vision,” Wegner states. “Therefore, it was vital that he was involved throughout every aspect of it.” Even back then, Frazer was seriously considering stepping down from overseeing daily operations and returning to his passion of developing innovative products. “So, once the brand refresh and new products strategy were in place,” Wegner says, “he felt comfortable stepping back.”
SOG has been Spencer’s baby since day one, so stepping back at any time or putting just anyone in charge isn’t what he wanted. “SOG’s future is pushing into an even greater extension of the original intent when it was founded,” Spencer notes. “I cannot be prouder of what the company has grown into.”
RELENTLESS by DESIGN
The new company slogan is “Relentless by Design.” This encompasses SOG’s past while embracing the future. Being a major player in the tactical market for many years has pushed the company to continuously innovate and bring new models to market. Starting this fall, SOG will double down on the pushing and debut some intriguing models.
With Frazer retired and the right people in place, the company is poised to embark on a fresh, new and exciting chapter where its knives and other products will be more focused and specifically aimed at three target groups: Professional, Outdoor and Daily. More on them later. Meanwhile, by the time the new vision was in place, many of SOG’s lower-end knives and other products already had been discontinued. “We felt those items didn’t truly represent the types of items we want to be [offering],” Wegner says.
Along with this, Walmart, which previously sold some of the now- discontinued, lower-end SOG items, was removed as a retailer. Most everyone else who had sold SOG knives will remain, including many knife-specific retailers on the Internet and elsewhere.
Beginning in the fall, the first phase of the brand refresh will officially go live, and, as of press time, some of the new knives already had been released. All of the new product classes are designed to function at peak levels, engineered with intent and built with the best materials for each specific price point.
As part of the new SOG’s knives fall into the three aforementioned categories: Professional (law enforcement, EMT, fire and military); Outdoor (hunters, hikers, campers, fishermen, etc.); and Daily (trades, office workers, warehouse workers and such). All three incorporate what the SOG brain trust calls a visual brand language. This means each category incorporates a specific geometric shape that is a motif for the designs that populate it.
For example, the knives in the Professional category have trapezoidal design elements. Outdoor employs a circular design motif. Finally, Daily employs triangular design elements. The purpose of the visual brand language is so you can readily identify each knife’s purpose.
In addition to the visual brand language, SOG is using new “naming conventions” as well. The standardized approach allows you to easily identify the primary technologies the knives use. For example, XR denotes the knife uses SOG’s XR lock (SEAL XR), AT denotes Assisted Technology (Flash AT), and FX indicates the knife is a fixed blade (SEAL FX). There are a few other designations but these are the most commonly used.
Also new is a color-coded accent stripe on the packaging. Yellow is for Daily, light blue for Professional and gray for Outdoor. Topping it off is new packaging in which you can actually see the product inside and read about its key highlights on the partial flap of the box. The packaging is bold, forward looking and helps usher in the new SOG era.
The blade mark also has changed. The previous SOG logo is now STUDIES AND OBSERVATIONS GROUP—a nod to the past while looking to the future.
FALL KNIFE DEBUTS
First up for the new fall line is the SOG- TAC XR, a Professional class tactical folder using the XR lock, a 3.5-inch drop-point blade of D2 tool steel, flipper opening and a textured G-10 handle. The ergonomic handle integrates a guard, dual nested steel liners, and a deep-carry pocket clip. Handle colors come in black or OD green. Another Professional class piece is the Pentagon XR. Building on the legacy of the Pentagon series of folders and fixed blades, it takes the dagger-ish styling and adds the XR lock, textured G-10 handle, dual nested steel liners, flipper opening and a 3.5-inch spearpoint blade of CTS XHP stainless steel. Handle colors are black, FDE and OD green. The Vision XR flipper folder brings some aggressiveness to the Professional series, with bold styling and a 3.5-inch double- ground tanto blade of CTS XHP, and a textured black G-10 handle with dual nested liners.
In the Daily category is the Ultra XR, an ultra-thin, ultra-lightweight gentleman’s folder with a linerless carbon fiber handle and a 3-inch clip-point blade of CPM S35VN stainless. An extra-large, fold-over pocket clip doubles as a money clip. The blade is available in gold titanium nitride or black coating options. Another Daily category entry, the Flash AT features a 3.5- inch drop-point blade in D2 powered by SOG’s Assisted Opening Technology. The molded Zytel handle is available in a choice of red, cyan, yellow and black. The new folders use pivot bearings for ultra- smooth blade action.
SOG long has been a viable player in the production knife market and the new refresh elevates the company even further. Expect more good things to come.