Can RadioShack re-invent itself, again?

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          Laura Heller

RadioShack's Super Bowl Ad was a runaway hit, but can it help RadioShack to renew its image?

I, for one, hope so.

The ad, set in a dated RadioShack store, shows an employee on the phone saying, "the '80s called" and "they want their store back." In runs a cast of characters from the 1980s -- Hulk Hogan, Alf, Kid 'n Play and Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Rhetton break through the doors, grab old goods such as VHS players and computer monitors, load them up in a Pacer and drive off into oblivion. In the end we see a modern retail store and the brand's new tagline "Do it together."

RadioShack itself is an iconic brand. There have been ups and downs, but as a neighborhood store that sells electronic necessities, it holds a lot of promise and retains some consumer good will.

A former executive once told me that shoppers come into RadioShack looking for something they can't name. Often they hold up their hand, thumb and index finger a couple inches apart to indicate some small, unknown, but incredibly necessary component.

And a RadioShack employee would figure it out. (That the component was likely a RadioShack private label with more than 40 percent profit margin, made the retailer a cash cow, even after it began losing relevance.)

RadioShack's new campaign is meant to shed outdated perceptions of the brand and position its employees to once again have answers for shoppers. The new tagline, "It Can Be Done, When We Do It Together," speaks to the brand's ability to collaborate with consumers to help them discover what is possible through technology.

To find them that unnamed but necessary item.

And for the past year, the company has been assembling an executive team that means business, building on core competencies going back to RadioShack's DIY roots.

In January 2013, RadioShack hired Joeseph Magnacca away from Walgreens to be its CEO. Magnacca was a rising star at Walgreens and was promoted to executive vice president just one week before RadioShack named him CEO. It was a big score — Magnacca is a true merchant with a history building store brands, a key strength and profit center for RadioShack. Magnacca is credited with remaking Duane Reade and creating a powerhouse of store brands including Nice!, now more than a $1 billion brand for Walgreens.

Other top merchants have since joined the RadioShack team including Jennifer Warren and Michael DeFazio as senior vice president and chief marketing officer and senior vice president of store concepts, respectively. They hail from top retailers including Walmart and Sam's Club, Marhsalls and TJ Maxx, and Walgreens, where DeFazio developed the drug chain's newest flagship stores.

There's a new partnership with Beats, that actually evokes a younger more relevant RadioShack. There's a new format with an interactive storefront developed by Samsung, to help get shoppers into the store. RadioShack knows people are passing them by and this 55-in. display is designed to draw attention from the sidewalk. The ultimate goal, a Samsung executive told me, is to get the shopper to "walk by and walk in."

My visits to RadioShack during the holiday season didn't reveal a shiny modern store, but I did find it picked clean of merchandise. In fact, on Christmas Eve with the minutes ticking down to closing time, store associates were busily bringing the few automated toys RadioShack is known for from the rear to fill empty shelves in the doorway. Shoppers were buying what RadioShack was selling.

The Super Bowl ad is paired with a new marketing campaign. RadioShack is "giving away" the last vestiges of the 1980s. "Out with the old. In with the new," is the tagline. "Since RadioShack is all about the future, we're getting rid of some stuff from the past."

RadioShack is giving away '80s memorabilia including a signed poster of Mary Lou Rhetton, a "Where's the Beef?" shirt and even a Pac-Man arcade game.
 
I don't know if it's the way to connect to a generation born in the 1990s and later, but it sure resonated for an '80s kid like me. It reminds me of the RadioShack I used to rely on. And it's way better than that lame attempt a few years back to get us to call it "The Shack." -Laura

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