Is RadioShack Changing Its Name? I Can’t Tell!

By  |  Monday, August 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm

RadioShack CatalogLast night, I was fretting over the ugly rumor that RadioShack was about to change its name to The Shack. Today the company issued a 700-word press release announcing its plans, and…I still can’t tell whether it intends to change the names of its thousands of stores or not.

Some quotes from the release:

RadioShack Corporation (NYSE: RSH) will unveil its new brand creative platform, “THE SHACK,” on August 6, supported by an integrated television, print and digital media schedule, as well as a high-profile, three-day launch event taking place in New York City and San Francisco.

Remind me again what a brand creative platform is again?

Trust is a critical attribute of any successful retailer, and the reality is that most people trust friends, not corporations. When a brand becomes a friend, it often gets a nickname – take FedEx or Coke, for example.

Not terribly clarifying considering that Federal Express completely shucked its old name and is now FedEx Corporation, while the folks at the Coca-Cola Company are equally pleased if you call their product Coca-Cola or Coke.

“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,” said Lee Applbaum, RadioShack’s Chief Marketing Officer.

Fair enough. But will your embracing and sharing involve the changing of signage? How will you answer the phone? Also, does the fact you call RadioShack “RadioShack” but spell the new name “THE SHACK” mean that your customers, associates, and the investor community have long bellowed that nickname at the top of their lungs?

This creative is not about changing our name. Rather, we’re contemporizing the way we want people to think about our brand.

Semantics question: Does the fact it’s not about changing your name mean that you aren’t changing your name?

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.

Okay, that makes sense–if I were RadioShack, I’d emphasize mobile stuff over batteries and cables, too. But how does calling yourself THE SHACK help achieve that goal?

“We’ve partnered with RadioShack to develop a creative platform that will cause people to take another look at THE SHACK. Everything about the advertising – the media, format, style, music and tone – will contribute to a new interpretation of the brand,” said Greg Stern, [CEO of THE SHACK’s ad agency. “Everyone knows RadioShack. Our job is to communicate what THE SHACK stands for today.”

I’ve been in my local Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK recently, and the biggest difference I noticed over Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK of the past is that they no longer badger you for your home address. Can I get some clarification on how changing the music in the commercials will make me a happier, healther customer of Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK?

To bring the new creative strategy to life, RadioShack will host Netogether, a three-day event taking place in New York City’s Times Square and San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza on August 6, 7 and 8. The event will connect the cities with two, massive, 17-foot laptop computers with webcams that allow live video and audio exchanges. Netogether will feature live music, celebrity appearances and unique contests to demonstrate how technology can keep people connected – even 3,000 miles apart. Consumers are invited to visit the event and chat with friends or family via the laptops, or to join in the conversation online at, where they can offer real-time comments on the live video feeds.

Now you’re talking! I’ll try to visit the 17-foot laptop in San Francisco later this week and report on it here.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Lewis Kornfeld, former president of Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK, published a column called “Flyerside Chat” in the company’s weekly circular. It was remarkably earnest and direct, and bizarrely free of marketingese–a sort of a corporate blog decades before anyone knew what a corporate blog was. Now the company’s trying to tell me news in wording so laden with buzzwords that I can’t figure out whether it plans to take down the RadioShack sign at the location a mile from here and replace it with one that says THE SHACK or not. Wouldn’t a friend who was changing his or her name tell you so rather than tapdancing around the question? Can anyone help me out here?

Possible clue: is taking me to…


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13 Comments For This Post

  1. tom b Says:

    “To bring the new creative strategy to life, RadioShack will host Netogether, a three-day event taking place in New York City’s Times Square and San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza on August 6, 7 and 8. The event will connect the cities with two, massive, 17-foot laptop computers with webcams that allow live video and audio exchanges.”

    This is really, really painfully, excruitiatingly lame. Maybe they’ll hand out buttons, “I’ve Shacked up (nudge, nudge, say no more)”. Who came up with this– Seinfeld?

  2. qka Says:

    17 foot laptop? Who is that for? The Jolly Green Giant?

  3. chuck in chicago Says:

    Harry, after reading your latest blog entry on this impending fiasco, your guess is as good as mine. But based on the segments of the press release you quoted, it certainly seems to me to be an advertising campaign of the worst sort. I’d hazard a guess that whatever the company decides to call itself in this misguided attempt at updating its “relevance” to today’s consumers will rank among the worst advertising ideas of the past century. I’ll toast their success with a glass of “new” Coke, just as soon as I finish my Burger King “Big King.” Mr. Kornfeld, whose columns I remember and enjoyed, must be looking down on this and cussing up a blue streak!

    And many thanks for the wonderful link to the Radio Shack Catalogs website. I’ve wasted, er, spent, more time than I should have today looking at those wonderful reminders of electronics of yesteryear.

  4. Says:

    Hi Harry. I am the creator of

    I thouroughly enjoyed reading this article. Brilliant!

    My fondness for RadioShack (and its 80+ year name) is apparent by my creation of an entire website devoted to their catalogs.

    I wish RS would reconsider. From what I’ve read, I think that my feelings (as are yours) are echoed throughout the internet.


  5. ecco6t9 Says:

    So some Moron Business Associate went to school for 8 years just to come up with the Million Dollar idea to change RadioShack to The Shack?

  6. pond Says:

    Just a guess: they will put ‘The Shack’ in a lot of their ads. They will not (yet) put the cash out to change the signs.

    If the new ‘brand platform’ catches on, the signs will change, as money becomes available. If the new thing sinks, the signs will not change and this will all be an embarrassing moment in a fired CEO’s career.

  7. cm Says:

    Well, whether they change their name or not (or fire the guy who came up with ‘netogether’), you gotta admit that this is a stroke of marketing brilliance.

    Radio Shack has more column inches and mentions in the last week than they could have gotten with Super Bowl ad money. Every third story is about Radio Shack, and I think Harry you have published at least 3 or 4. Amazing. I bet they have a huge spike in traffic on their website with us geeks checking to see when the name will change. Maybe they sell the odd adapter or wire at the same time too.

  8. Kate Newlin Says:

    I’m always intrigued by branding that works to cross our wires.

    Like the way Dove (from two separate companies) can coexist as both a soap and a chocolate. No single company would use one brand for two such disparate entities, but here are two mega players, powering two brands with radically different benefits at the same target: Women. In one case, women who like the bodies just the way they are; in the other, women who like their indulgent chocolate with affirmations included.

    So now comes Radio Shack, rebranding itself The Shack at the same time that there’s a mega-best seller out there, called The Shack. How cool is that?

    Imagine the search moments, when you’re looking for the closest Radio Shack and instead come up with inspiration from a self-published (initially) tome? And, vice versa, of course.

    That’s the time when those knowledgable sales associates are going to particularly challenged. But hey! Could it be that The Shack contemporizes the “radio” part? And in a self-helpy kind of way?

    So far, I’m likin’ it.

  9. tom b Says:

    Radio uncool? Remember the song “Video killed the radio star?”. There was this new station, MTV, which was showing cool, creative music vids to quality music. Fast forward: MTV branches into Rap (cr*p). fast forward again: MTV is all about “reality” programming, where you have a bunch of boring teenaged slackers sitting around getting stoned all day.

    A bit off topic, but its an interesting case study in itself in how decent ideas get off track.

  10. Stephen A. Shaffer Says:

    Um, excuse me, but there’s a very popular book out there called, “The Shack.” It’s in print in the millions of copies range and in many languages. Think there might just be a copyright issue here? That would be just grand, wouldn’t it? RS spends millions to re-brand at the suggestion of some marketing dolt only to have it all brought down by a cease-and-desist court order. And doesn’t this whole idea just smack of the marketing lunacy that holds the marketing process in such sanctity that it forgets such business strategies as building and selling a quality product, providing genuine customer service, and, oh, what was that word they used to use pretty often? Honesty? Integrity? Yeah, that’s it. What ever became of integrity as a business strategy?

  11. Anonois Says:

    IMO, Radio Shack has been struggling to re-establish relevance for years. This won’t save them. I recall some years ago that Radio Shack filled a niche by having relatively cheap and essential parts and cables that made them indispensable. Things not readily available (like an odd connector) at big box stores were sure to be found at Radio Shack. Now, Radio Shack is irrelevant. It is like entering a miniature Best Buy–with a fraction of the selection and prices just as high. We don’t need a miniature Best Buy. Radio Shack’s raison de être is in question.

  12. Josh Says:

    I think the name is goofy (kind of like Pizza Hut’s “The Hut), but before we go CEO bashing, I was reminded of this story from a few weeks ago:

    I rarely use the store, but they’re apparently doing something right.

  13. Bob M. Says:

    Great article! This is really too painful to watch. It gives Marketing a bad name.

    Right before Circuit City went out of business they re-named themselves The City. It did not help their relevance. Radio Shack has a good, solid heritage, but a long outdated business model and product offering. So, the name change to the Shack is dubious at best. But making matters worse, there are simply too many other things Shack related that make the name the opposite of unique (i.e. The Shack book, Shaq the basketball player, etc.). Plus, the shack as a stand-alone name has negative connotations. Buckle-up for a long life of pot-shots!

    Radio Shack should have focused on fully repositioning themselves as a new digital brand. Their history is analog. Radio is not necessarily the problem. It’s not going anywhere: There’s digital radio, radio station streaming on the web, Sirius satellite radio, Pandora, Slacker, etc. Radio is still rocking. But having an analog anchor on your brand in a digital word is a problem. But, one that can be fixed.

    The Shack is not the way to fix it. The way to fix it is to re-tool your value proposition, update your business model to support it, and reinforce your brand name in a way that makes it crystal clear what you offer and what you stand for.

2 Trackbacks For This Post

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