Radio Shack: beyond “image wrapper branding”

A brilliant cartoon from Tom Fishburne illustrates the risks of what we call "image wrapper branding": changing just the visual appearance of your brand, with no accompanying upgrade of product/service. I agree 100% when Tom says, "A shiny new brand identity won’t automatically solve all of the problems of the business." I recently used Yahoo's new logo change as an example of doing just this, in a post called "Re-painting the Titanic." 

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 17.29.52

Tom uses the example of US electrical product and component retailer Radio Shack to show the risks with image wrapper branding, and the better alternative of re-launching with an upgrade proposition and offer.

Image wrapper branding

Back in 2009 Radio Shack tried to re-launch with a new, catchier shorthand: "The Shack". A lot of the brand's whopping $200million of advertising was blown introducing this new name. The problem was that the store design, service and product offer remained the same. In addition, the name was't based on real consumer insight. "No consumers called RadioShack “The Shack”", as Tom says. In contrast, "Grad some Buds" for Budweiser beer builds on the language consumers really use.

Tom goes on to describe the results of this change, saying "It was a huge flop and the stock has lost 95% of its value in the past 7 years."


Remember and refresh what made you famous

In 2014 RadioShack are having another go at re-launching. This time there is chance the results will be better (well, they can't be much worse, can they?). First, the company is following a key principle of the Grow the Core approach: remember and refresh what made you famous. You can see this in the words of CMO Jennifer Warren in a Fast Company article

“When we started talking to customers, they still had positive memories of RadioShack from the ’80s as this place where inventors and makers got their start.” 

Brand-led business

RadioShack is not only looking back at what made it famous. It is also looking forward at trends, and in particular the "maker" movement. They are then using this to change the service offer and store design in a series of concept stores. This is what we call "brand-led business". As Tom says, "Radio Shack are taking advantage of the maker movement to re-vamp stores around their maker heritage — with 3-D printers, robot sets, and meeting space for DIY types."


Brand idea

The re-vamped Radio Shack is nicely captured with the brand idea: "Do it together". This is a call to action that builds on the brand's history. It is contrasted with "DIY", do it yourself.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 17.56.14

In conclusion, this looks like an example of a brand moving beyond image-wrapper branding to something more substantial. Ss Tom says, "it will be interesting to see how the re-brand continues to unfold over the next year. This time, they’re not trying to be something they’re not."