RadioShack's 'The Shack' Shift: 3 Things to Consider

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RadioShack is joining the growing list of companies trying to refresh an old image by taking on a new name. RadioShack will begin referring to itself as "The Shack," the retailer has announced. But it's not as simple as changing the signs. And, depending on whom you ask, it might end up being a detrimental move.

So, before you shack up with your impressions of The Shack's shortened signature, here are three things to consider.

1. All signs point to the signs staying the same.

While much of the early media coverage has implied that RadioShack is formally changing its name, that doesn't actually appear to be the case. According to the official announcement, The Shack will be a "new brand creative platform." Granted, that's written in the language of corporate mumbo jumbo, not English. But reading through the rest of the gobbledygook, my takeaway translation is still that this is a nickname -- not a full-on company name change.

From the press release:

"When a brand becomes a friend, it often gets a nickname -- take FedEx or Coke, for example. 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. ... This creative is not about changing our name. Rather, we're contemporizing the way we want people to think about our brand."

RadioShack has yet to explicitly state whether the "contemporization" of "this creative" would include "becoming a friend" through store signs, or solely through the ad-based mentions -- but the language used in the excerpt above certainly strikes me as suggesting the latter.

2. RadioShack adjusted its identity once before.

Up until several years ago, RadioShack was actually Radio Shack. Sure, it's a subtle difference -- one teensy space's worth -- but it struck the suits at The Shack as being significant enough to spend a stack of cash on.

That go-round, the stores' signs were all changed to reflect the rebranding. So did all the effort and investment pay off? Gauging by recent earnings reports and the current Radio-free reinvention, it sure doesn't seem like it.

3. A catchy new nickname may be a bad omen.

An electronics retailer hoping to become more modern with a catchy new two-word name...why does that sound so familiar? Oh, right -- because Circuit City did the same thing just before it went into bankruptcy.

Back at the end of '07, Circuit City announced it was experimenting with a new store concept: "The City." Attempting to shed the negative associations with its name, the company started opening The City stores -- basically, smaller versions of the same ol' place, but allegedly with more emphasis on pleasant customer experiences. (A novel concept, eh?)

Of course, we all know how that experiment ended: Less than one year later, Circuit City and The City were both headed to The Graveyard. First, 155 stores were shut down. Then, within about a week, the rest received their death notices.

Not to say that a two-word, article-based name is a certain sign of doom. But the similarity of the scenarios can't be reassuring.

Amidst all of this, one can't help but wonder: Did execs from The Shack happen to be lunching at The Hut when the inspiration struck? Or is it just a big coincidence?

Either way, we here at The World will continue to keep you posted.

JR Raphael regularly mocks technology at eSarcasm, his new geek humor site. You can also catch him on the Twitters: @jr_raphael.

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