During Super Bowl XLVIII, Radio Shack aired a new commercial in which it depicts famous iconic characters from the 80’s raiding a Radio Shack and claiming all of the dated accoutrements and merchandise of the Radio Shack we’ve all come to know so well over the decades. The message tries to portray Radio Shack as poking fun at itself and recognizing that it has been a little behind the times. The sentiment sounds genuine and most would agree that it is time for an update but unfortunately Radio Shack misses. . .again.
It wasn’t long ago that Radio Shack announced a campaign to change its name to, “The Shack”, saying that was the name affectionately given to it by its core customers. The problem was no one knew anybody that referred to Radio Shack as, “The Shack” and so the whole thing felt extremely contrived. In an effort to try to be more hip and relevant, Radio Shack actually felt even older and disconnected. It felt like one of those situations where a parent tries to show their kids that they’re still cool and everyone just ends up feeling sort of awkward. Radio Shack decided not to pursue that direction but realized that something needed to be done to keep the company from falling victim to the changing times. For that you have to applaud Radio Shack for taking measures to get on course and do whatever was necessary to remain relevant, even if it meant a total rebranding.
The problem with this campaign however, is just like the previous campaign, this new brand lacks authenticity. Ever since Apple blew up the tech sphere with very sleek marketing that seamlessly integrates technology into images of how we all wish to see ourselves using that technology, tech companies have been tripping over themselves trying to do the same and that’s a good thing. But not everybody can recreate the Apple narrative the way Apple tells the story. Google learned this lesson early with its Droid cell phone platform while Microsoft took more time to recognize this reality. Radio Shack will never be seen on par with the Apple Store. The Radio Shack story is different and it’s not clear core customers of Radio Shack are looking for the brand to become something more similar to Apple. Radio Shack, if it truly wants to rebrand itself needs to ask, “Why would a customer want to have the Radio Shack experience when shopping for electronics products?” That is how Radio Shack should rebrand its image. Customers see through “window dressing” and if the experience ends up leaving them unfulfilled the results will undoubtedly be the same.
Careful analysis of psychographic survey data collected on Radio Shack customers would help Radio Shack start to identify how its customer base is clustered around central ideals and values which can then be tied to preferences and ultimately behavior. This approach is much more predictive of what customers want and how they will respond. While updating the store probably won’t hurt the brand, there is certain to be missed opportunities and possibly even missteps if careful consideration of the core customer values and ideals are not taken into account.
It will be interesting to watch how Radio Shack fares with its new campaign. Will it pan out as it did with Target, a true success story in rebranding, or will we look back and see this strategy never had a chance from inception? One thing is for sure and that is the answer to this question is not rooted in luck, serendipity or pure random chance. Like Target, Radio Shack’s success ultimately will hinge on the degree to which it did its due diligence to choose the path leading to the strongest impact among is core customers.