The Shack Shakes It Up With Wild, Wacky Rebrand

NEW YORK A camera frames the RadioShack logo over the entrance of a storefront. The point of view is angled as if being shot from the sidewalk with a cellphone or a pocket digital camera. After a few seconds of barely audible street noise, explosive music kicks in and a man’s thumb with the word “The” drawn on it with blocky type moves into the frame to obstruct part of the RadioShack name, effectively shortening it to “The Shack.”

This 15-second commercial is one of 12 new TV ads to begin running nationally tomorrow as part of the Fort Worth, Texas-based retailer’s ambitious effort from Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif., to rebrand itself, at least informally in its marketing materials, with the shorter, presumably friendlier nickname.

“If you think about how you use nicknames, you generally use them with friends, people for whom you have an affinity and trust. Those are important attributes for any brand and certainly for us,” said Lee Applbaum, CMO of RadioShack, who explained that consumers and the company have used brand name shorthand for years. “If you can latch onto a brand truth, it’s a really wonderful thing.”

The campaign includes new in-store signage, digital media, out-of-home, direct and a three-day bi-coastal event that will broadcast live video connecting New York and San Francisco. It aims to give the 88-year-old brand, which began in the 1920s as a provider of equipment for the then-budding field of amateur radio, a more modern image that speaks to its premium brand offerings in wireless and connectivity.

The ads are decidedly quirky and range in style and tone from the introductory spot described above to a commercial that tells consumers “The Shack sells more phones than the population of Scandinavia.” In the latter, an animated ad is set in “Phonelandia” and features thumping European dance music and phones and PDAs dressed in wigs and hats, drinking beer and smoking pipes and generally chillin’ in a grassy field with a mountain range backdrop.

Another spot stresses that the electronics retailer has more “expertise than a truck full of Einsteins” with imagery of a lorry crammed with just that.

John Butler, executive creative director and founding partner of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, said the TV ads, in conjunction with all the various elements of the campaign, are meant to offer bits of information that in total tell RadioShack’s story. “We looked at it almost like snacking. We could have a lot of little snacks throughout our broadcast and it felt like it would allow us to do a lot of different messages quickly. They are almost like interstitials,” said Butler. “It’s very music and design centric and products are front and center.”

Applbaum, who joined the company last September from Schottenstein Stores, said at least two of the 15-second commercials are scheduled to run within a single show or commercial pod.

Tomorrow, the company will kick off a three-day event in New York’s Time Square and San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza. “The Shack Summer Netogether” will use two 11 x 17-foot “laptops” broadcasting live video to connect activities in both cities.

RadioShack plans to use digital media to connect consumers with its experiential program via a new Web site designed by BSSP and its new Facebook page.

“The idea was to use Facebook as a platform to break into social media,” said David Blum, executive director of interactive services at BSSP. “It’s the predominant place where social interaction happens on the Web nowadays.”

RadioShack awarded BSSP creative duties on its advertising in April following a review.

Major media spending on the brand is approximately $120 million annually, excluding online spending. Aegis’ Carat, Dallas, handles media duties.