Celebrating the Browning Buckmark Logo.
The history of the outdoor industry's most iconic logo.
Release Date: 9/3/2008
Designed in the fall of 1977.
A little background is necessary to put this project and its timing into context. In those years, the Browning annual sales meeting was usually held in the month of July. Harmon Williams, then the president of Browning, felt that this was a relatively slow sales period of the year and, therefore, the best time of the year to bring the field salesmen into the offices. Since the late 1960s, Browning had been trying to break into non-gun markets with fishing, archery, boots, clothing, and knives. The objective was to insulate the company from the increasing threats of firearms legislation. Success with non-gun products was generally lukewarm, with boots and archery initially being the most successful.
Browning creates an in-house ad department for the first time.
The clothing line was very small in 1977, and the pressure was on to expand its acceptance. Invariably, whenever the clothing discussion came up, the salesmen always pointed to the example of the Izod shirt, which was a hallmark in those days. They attributed the Izod success to the appeal of the little alligator insignia embroidered on the pocket or just above the pocket. Browning needed an appealing insignia like this, they argued. By this time the issue had become a constant, almost nagging theme at the sales meetings for several years.
Coincidentally, just prior to the 1977 sales meeting, Browning released its ad agency in Salt Lake City, Utah, and formed an in-house agency called Mountain Green Advertising. Bailey was hired as the in-house agency’s first art director in July 1977.
Immediately, after the 1977 sales meeting, Vern Peterson, Browning marketing manager, (second in command under Williams) gave the in-house agency its first project – come up with an insignia to embroider on Browning clothing. (The second project received was to produce the 1978 Browning Centennial catalog.)
There was no thought at the beginning of the project that it would include a Browning logo redesign, but very soon Bailey realized that the acceptance of the insignia required a strong association to the Browning brand in order to be able to stand alone on the breast of a Browning garment as Browning identification. Bailey felt this was an opportunity to advance the traditional Browning logo to a more contemporary design.
The design Bailey recommended was an abstract mule deer depiction, soon to be known as the Buckmark, the name it still bears today.
"A huge mossback buck."
At the time he designed the logo Bailey felt that large mule deer had a mystique that no other big game animal possessed. He recalls that elk were not yet as common throughout the West as they are now. Mule deer were classic to Utah and big mule deer bucks were universally accepted as a symbol of the hunt. When designing the Buckmark, Bailey envisioned “a huge mossback buck walking away from the hunter and then, as they often do, taking one last look over his shoulder.” The perspective of the viewer is from slightly below the deer, which is a subtle effect you can see with careful examination of the logo.
Initially, Williams was not enthused with the Buckmark logo. His objection was that first of all, it was a hunting symbol, and Browning was trying to expand into some non-hunting outdoor sports (fishing and camping). Secondly, the mule deer was not the most popular big game animal; the whitetail deer had that distinction.
“I really like the doe in the Buckmark, and consider it a happy accident.”
However, this was one of the very rare instances where those involved in the project, including Peterson and David Zeigler, Browning advertising manager, were able to convince Williams to change his mind. The argument was that this was an abstract symbol of the outdoors in general (fishermen and campers thrill to seeing deer as much as hunters do), and importantly, the mule deer is a western symbol that reinforces the western origins of the Browning company as opposed to a firearms companies largely located in New England’s “Gun Valley.” (This was a somewhat weak, hopeful argument to put before to the brutal marketing scrutiny of Williams, and to this day, those involved are surprised it succeeded.)
David Zeigler and Don Bailey generously contributed to this story. Zeigler was the Browning advertising manager in 1977 at the time the Buckmark was created. He retired in 2000 as Browning’s vice president of advertising. Don Bailey, the designer of the Buckmark logo, has had an extensive advertising career since leaving Browning in 1983.
Few entries in the Show Us Your Buckmark contest have shown a love of the Buckmark logo more than John Dahl's winning idea in 2012.
Copyright Browning, 2008,. Revised, Roger Stitt, April 2015, 2018. May not be reproduced or copied in any way without specific written permission of Browning. Reprinting or posting by any site (specifically by content scrapers) is forbidden. Usage is only allowed for quotes and excerpts used for historical and/or news articles.