August 5th, 2009
Ft. Worth-based RadioShack announced that it will rebrand itself simply as The Shack. Lee Applebaum, the company’s chief marketing officer, called it a way of “contemporizing” perceptions of the brand:
“Our customers, associates, and even the investor community, have long referred to RadioShack as ‘The Shack,’ so we decided to embrace that fact and share it with the world. The Shack speaks to consumers in a fresh, new voice and distinctive, creative look that reinforces RadioShack’s authority in innovative products, leading brands, and knowledgeable, helpful associates.”
“We have tremendous equity in consumers’ minds around cables, parts, and batteries, but it’s critically important that we help them to understand the role that we play in keeping people connected in this highly mobile world. You will see a real focus on mobility and wireless products from leading brands in our new advertising.”
There are comparisons between this situation and when Federal Express became FedEx — because that’s what customers called it. I disagree. FedEx had a strong, crystal-clear brand; nobody was confused about its value proposition; and there’s no negative connotation with that moniker.
The Shack’s a different story. The Shack? Nothing positive or cool or unique or compelling or contemporary about it. When people referred to RadioShack as “the shack,” it wasn’t a compliment. Remember the company’s PC, the TRS-80? People used to call it the Trash-80 — also not a compliment.
So, just because lots of people are using a term, it isn’t necessarily a good thing. What’s critical is the image in their minds and the feeling in their guts when they invoke or hear or read a brand. The Shack? I think of junk. I feel like avoiding it.
Applebaum admitted that people currently associate RadioShack with cables, parts, and batteries. Whose fault is that? Applebaum’s stated objective is to change that perception to one of mobility. How does rebranding each store as “The Shack” conjure mobility? It doesn’t.
Everybody already knows the RadioShack name. OK, it’s not a great name or currently a crystal-clear brand, but a familiar one. With some clever creativity, RadioShack could have become what the company wants it to be, needs it to be.
Instead, it has chosen to take a terrible name with a negative connotation — The Shack — and invest big bucks to make it into something powerful. It’s putting itself inside a shack, where cables, parts, and batteries are luxuries.
That “fresh, new voice” you hear is just white noise emanating from a broken radio inside The Shack.
POSTSCRIPT #1: RadioShack CMO Leaves “The Shack” (03.07.12)
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2009 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.