It Is Summer, So Maybe It’s The Heat And Not Faulty Marketers

Three thoughts for a beautiful summer day. (Or is that my brain melting?)


Hard to decide if RadioShack’s effort to rebrand themselves to “The Shack” is off to a good start… When I Googled it came after a book called The Shack, and in news it followed the story “Woman Found Dead in Homeless Shack was Murdered, Authorities say…” Leave “the” off the name and I got sidetracked by Scuba Shack and Klezmer Shack. I love RadioShack for the geeky hardware store that it is and I’m curious what is going to happen to the product mix as they try to ‘update’ their image. But I gotta think that if they felt Radio was old fashioned, how in the world did they decide Shack would be ‘with it’? (Isn’t the iPhone a radio-computer? Seems Radio could be hot, but that might be the heat.)


In Geoffry James’ opinion marketers have finally gone insane. (Of course he didn’t have a very high opinion of, gulp, my profession, in the first place for some pretty well placed reasons.) He points to a new trend where under the gun financial institutions are still sponsoring big ticket events but leaving their name off the program, door, ticket and anything else that might generate publicity. I’m sure the ‘special’ invitees were told who paid for the tickets so maybe it wasn’t as stealth as it appears to the Times reporter, however, if you’re embarrassed to put your name on it does it really make sense to be there at all? In the recent Meeting & Events they spoke about the trend of disguising your events so no one would know what company would be there. Suggestions like using code names (“Presidents Club”) and bright logos so participants will know each other, but outsiders will be left in the dark.   If you are unable to justify the event now in terms of ROI or negative publicity, could you really justify it a year ago?


I found myself at the library searching for some reference material and paging through the new Harvard Business Review. Great article on ‘Restoring American Competitiveness’ by Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih.

As the United States strives to recover from the current economic crisis, it’s going to discover an unpleasant fact: The competitiveness problem of the 1980s and early 1990s didn’t really go away. It was just hidden during the bubble years behind a mirage of prosperity, and all the while the country’s industrial base continued to erode. HBR – Pisano & Shih

Turns out my dad was right all along in that shipping a bunch of manufacturing jobs overseas would have a negative impact on our overall competitiveness. (Sorry for the arguments dad, I was in college and knew everything at the time) I’ve seen it happen at companies I’ve worked for. First the manufacturing goes then the design capability follows. Marketing and finance end up getting to run the place, but turns out that looks to be a short term prospect in this do or die world.

I got half way through the article, gave up my research for the night and grabbed a book of poetry to brighten my mood. Turns out some poets are depressing. It’s summer for Pete’s sake. Big challenges ahead. Time to let the brain cells recuperate a bit. (By the way, interesting chart here breaking down what groups of Americans are doing at any given point of the day. What does it mean when at no point in the day does the percentage of Americans who are ‘Resting and Thinking’ go over two percent? Why did they group Thinking with Resting?) so chucking the library I turned towards home to do what American’s still do best and fired up the Grill. (Or have the Australians beaten us at this? I love Outback Steakhouse. Oh, and it comes up first when you search for Outback.)

Image Credits: The Shack copyright RadioShack. Conference Table by Franck-Boston and Steak by martinh70 both via
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14 Responses to It Is Summer, So Maybe It’s The Heat And Not Faulty Marketers

  1. Terry Heath says:

    Maybe it’s good more Americans aren’t resting and thinking too often. That might be when we come up with ideas like “The Shack” and anonymous sponsorships of big ticket events.

    I really don’t get the thumb thing in the Radio Shack ads (oh look, I still call them Radio Shack . . . just like Jack in the Box was always Jack in the Box, even when they were calling themselves whatever it was they called themselves for awhile). Anyway, why would someone walk around with “The” written on the back of his thumb? I don’t know if this will make sense, but if something is going to cover “Radio” I think there should be some organic reason . . . like maybe a DVD, CD or some other non-radio thing. Like there are just so many of these things at Radio Shack that they just flow all over the place and obliterate the “Radio” part.

    But I still can’t work “The” into this picture.

    They should have gone with RS if they wanted something “hip” since it seemed to work for KFC. If they really want “The” then they could go with TRS . . . but that’s a publisher already.

    Anything but “The Shack” . . . each time I hear that I start humming that B52s song from the 80s.

    Oh, sorry about the new email address and website name. It’s part of a rebranding thing I came up with last time I sat around thinking and resting.
    .-= Terry Heath´s last blog ..The Emperor’s New Blog =-.

  2. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Fred, You ought to go back to the Dozois SF anthology to fight off the marketing blues. There’s an old saying: Marketers who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. When Datsun changed its name to Nissan, the results were less than scintillating. The Shack is perfect if you’re selling low income housing or Shaquille O’Neal memorabilia. Otherwise, why give up a name with so much cache? Terry could be right, though – RadioShack may live on for a generation or so, regardless. I mean, how many people reach for a pack of Altria cigarettes?
    .-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..Beyond Price – Change Your Business Model to Escape Commoditization =-.

  3. Hi Brad and Terry,

    The thing about this RadioShack rebranding that is so disheartening is that I’m sure there’s a ton of research backing up their decision. I just don’t think it passes the smell test. And since I’m a pretty consistent customer my vote counts a little bit.

  4. Brad Shorr says:

    So Fred … As a longstanding customer, will the name change lead you to buy less of their merchandise?
    .-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..Beyond Price – Change Your Business Model to Escape Commoditization =-.

  5. rose says:

    “the shack” makes very little sense…who stores electrical equipment in a shack anyway? these guys have a funny article on the name change over here: enjoy…

  6. J.D. Meier says:

    I thought small was the new big and that rather than rebrand, you launch new brands after new niches. I’ve heard of multiple rebranding efforts this past year, but I haven’t heard of any success stories.

    When to rebrand? … when to leave the brand alone and fork or launch a new brand?
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..3 Take Aways =-.

  7. Terry says:

    You’re probably right, JD. They could have just converted some of their smaller shops (or is it shacks? I’m confused) into some specialized sub niche. We’ll see how that works for Starbucks, who has opened a coffeehouse style shop on Capitol Hill in Seattle. They’ll have bottled wine, beer, and even poetry readings. I think they’re calling it something like 15th Avenue Coffee . . . but of course it will always be Starbucks to me.
    .-= Terry´s last blog ..The Emperor’s New Blog =-.

  8. That really depends on if something actually happens within the store other than the name change. I’m curious as to what their doing to the stuff I actually go there for so it may actually get me to make one extra trip, but without any specific purchase in mind. And here’s where the question mark comes in. The drastic rebranding has made me curious, will get me to make one extra trip – if that happens a lot then maybe they have succeeded. But if the store is the same old store, then nothing really changes long term. A renaming without an underlying change is a gimmick. Hardly worth the money whether I like the name or not.

  9. Hi J.D., Unfortunately I get the feeling the name changes are going on because the brand managers have no idea what else to do. Changing a logo and a name is the sexy fun part of brand management vs the hard work of changing distribution methods, cost cutting, innovating features, etc. The campaign at RadioShack could be an indication of how deep management feels their problems run. I’ve heard they tried a similar thing in Canada partnering with Circuit City which indicates not only are they running a bit desperate, but maybe have terrible luck as well.

    Your question about ‘when to’ deserves a post of its own. I’m going to have to mull…..

  10. Terry – You seem to have coffee on the brain as of late and busy with some blog ‘rebranding’ yourself. Are you keeping up with the ‘mother ship’ blog and opening specialty niches or switching things up entirely?

  11. Terry says:

    Funny thing you ask. I had been planning to do some niche blogging, reviving the project I started before everything with my dad (Hospice, if anyone is reading this who doesn’t know) . . . but with a different twist.

    THEN, your posts here got me thinking maybe I should think again.

    The “mother ship” blog has been a dependable ol’ thing. I had some problems with the idea of branding since it’s a personalized domain ( You see, I seem to have multiple personalities and thought my writing should be kept apart from marketing/blogging things.

    But here’s the thing I think I learned. The answer wasn’t necessarily starting something new, I just hadn’t found the right thing to do with what I already had. <= Everybody needs to GET that.

    I might have figured it out, but I'm not sure. I'll start testing a new idea for tying my writing, blogging and marketing interests together without branding my name as a "marketer." You see, I'm thinking ahead to that day when I'm a famous novelist and people come to my blog and see all that marketing and blogging stuff and go, "What the hey?" and stop buying my books.

    Even though I haven't finished a book yet, I figure someday I'll be very prolific. 😉

    So here's the lesson again. Starting some new brand may not be the answer. You might just not yet know what to do with the brand you already have.
    .-= Terry´s last blog ..Two Ways to Laugh, Two Ways to Live =-.

  12. I’m looking forward to the book. The question of multiple blogs is a good one and I hope you figure it out ’cause it is flummoxing me a bit as well. The more I’ve been writing here and commenting the more ideas have been popping up that don’t seem to fit. I think it’s fair to separate, but it really depends on what your end game is and how much time you can spend keeping up multiple portals. As you say, if your not sure what to do with your lead brand, adding new ones may not fix the issue at hand.

    For years P&G was hesitant to provide line extensions. They wanted to keep Crest pure for example. But as competitors found niches that ate the edges of their market share they were quick to realize that Crest could mean ‘Good Toothpaste’ in general and be an umbrella for many flavors and varieties. Managed well it makes sense and is more efficient. Do it like the fashion industry and slap your name on every item in existence and it can self destruct.

    The key is – some folks who know you will want to follow the multiple you’s and in most cases you want to make it easy for them. That being said, writers have to eat and as you say, the profession may not mesh perfectly with the genre.

    Since I think you’re talking about your personal brand Dvorak ( )has an interesting approach. While he may not be as diverse as you are planning to be, he collects the various feeds at a central location, so real fans can get an overview of everything that is going on rather than having to run from site to site.

  13. As far as I know, we don’t have any Radioshacks here in Europe, but I’ve heard and read about them a lot, it seems it’s the place you go for all your electronic needs 🙂

    But I just couldn’t believe it when I heard in CNET’s “Loaded” that they were going to re-name it “The Shack”, that’s just too weird a name for such a type of store. The “Radio” part in Radioshack is probably out of date, but never the less, anybody knows what it is and who they are, I think.
    .-= Klaus @ TechPatio´s last blog ..Facebook: World’s 4th Most Visited Website. Google: Brand Value $100 Billion =-.

  14. Hi Klaus, It’s more of a specialty store. Has plugs and headphones and microphones as well as capacitors and such, but with the exception of cell phones not a lot of high end stuff. As management has talked about it they claim “The Shack” it is a nickname “everyone knows us by.” I had never heard it before but maybe it is popular elsewhere. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

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