Basketball fans have Shaq. Now technophiles have the Shack.
It's the rebranding of RadioShack that's supposed to freshen the appeal of one of the oldies in consumer electronics that's been at it since 1963 and gave liftoff to the Tandy personal computer decades ago.
The Fort Worth, Texas, company is not changing its name or marquee signs, but launching a multifaceted ad campaign to get shoppers to pick up what employees have called the chain of 6,000 stores for some time.
"People trust friends, not corporations," explained Lee Applebaum, chief marketing officer. "When a brand becomes a friend, it gets a nickname — take FedEx or Coke."
The planned hoopla over the Shack includes new in-store signs, a sponsorship deal with cycling champ Lance Armstrong and a publicity stunt featuring a Web-cam-equipped, 17-foot laptop linking the curious gathered in Times Square in New York with a similar crowd in San Francisco.
It's part of a larger recasting of the chain including remodeled stores that put the customer service desk in the middle of the store and relegated the familiar batteries, transformers and plugs to a back corner.
Also, the company stepped up its quest to be a bigger force in the wireless world, where it gets a third of its sales. Last month RadioShack agreed to add T-Mobile at 4,000 stores where shoppers can buy Garmin, AT&T, Samsung, HP, Mio, Casio, SanDisk, Microsoft and Sprint Nextel products.
Some experts say RadioShack needs some kind of jolt.
"RadioShack is in a desperate battle to remain relevant," Drew Neisser, chief executive of Renegade, a New York brand marketing agency, told the Dallas Morning News.
"The name RadioShack is a quaint artifact in a rapidly evolving marketplace in which mobile devices have become the CE (consumer electronics) portal."
Mark Albright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8252.