Feb 15

Radio Shack proves an ancient advertising truth

Not many stores find a way to die slowly, painfully and publicly, but Radio Shack did an excellent job of it.

A year ago, it ran one of the best commercials on the Super Bowl. (Above.) Last week, it celebrated the ad’s one-year anniversary by declaring bankruptcy.

The commercial was easy to love — honest, fun and self-deprecating. It acknowledged what we all knew to be true: Radio Shack seemed mired in the 80s and it was high time for a makeover.

Now it’s time to lock the doors.

Hmm. Does this mean great creative actually failed? Nope. Rather, it revalidated one of marketing’s most ancient principles: nothing kills a bad product like great advertising.

Of course, we can’t blame Radio Shack’s troubles on one commercial. But the company did shoot itself in the foot by attracting so much attention to the “big change,” and then not really delivering on the promise. I’m an infrequent visitor, and to me the 2014 store felt pretty much like the 2006 store, which felt kinda like the 1988 store.

Steve Jobs faced a similar circumstance in 1997. Apple had the look and feel of a company that had become irrelevant. Steve did run a “look who we are” campaign — Think different — but that was a small part of his overall changes. He invested far more in creating an Apple that embodied the promise.

One thing we can say about Radio Shack’s Super Bowl commercial — it turned out to be quite prescient. The 1980s really did want their store back.

Sadly, the 2010s didn’t want any part of it.

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  • Dan

    Speaking of bankrupt companies and great Super Bowl ads. Pets.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXHrlm5Nk5w I believe Chiat Day came up with the puppet. Did you work with Pets.com at all or remember people working on it?

  • I long for the days of Allied Radio Shack. But then, I always preferred Allied Electronics over Radio Shack.

  • Nameless Coward

    Easy. Their new store looks like any other store these days, all white like a cleanroom – no culture, all dead cold stiffed corpses.
    They all want to be Apple, they can’t be. Period.

    At school at the styling dep. all the stylists imitated Apple. Making everything white, big shapes and no details. The bar for admittance is really low these days. Copying is learning.

    Apple keeps their styling to a minimum so the products get their well deserved attention.
    A pristine canvas to not distract from the great masterpieces, that really invoke a sense of wonderment and awe.

    Radio shack is just shoveling crap pretending to be different, wanting to be Apple.
    The store looks like a nail salon for androids or something. Messed up shit man. Instead they should have reinvented the future for the diy market, you know.. the crazy ones?
    Inspire people not to think big or ‘different’ , but to actually do it. Yeah have some awesome DIY kits. Sell the Captain Crunch whisle..

    By imitating Apple they achieve the exact opposite of a great brand experience.
    They lack the super huge core experience to compensate not looking like a nail salon for men, but an actual spaceship filled with an everlasting supply of virgins.

    Its that simple.

    You may ask what this al has to do with the much enjoyable add?
    Well: Steve Jobs. He would have seen all of the above mentioned discrepancies and point out and say this is shit.. – the brand, the message, the store the target audience are not gay androids looking for their nails to get done, only to find out they have a hige screenprotector assortiment. And men think, what is this shit? A nail studio for gay androids?
    This is all misaligned people! Steve says.
    Back to the drawingboard, find your core and what ppl want. Build a brand and store around that, and then have the ad agency weigh in…

  • Gary Deezy


  • ksegall

    Thanks for the tip. Interestingly, they seem to have taken it down virtually everywhere. Probably copyright issues with all those characters. But I did find one place that still has it. Let’s see how long this lasts…