Cycling and The Shack

livestrong radioshackAs an avid cyclist and a creative and branding professional, it was with great interest that I watched those two worlds collide last week. The facts are these: RadioShack recently teamed up with Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong organization to sponsor Lance’s cycling team next year. And RadioShack has decided its current brand needed an update.So last week, Radioshack announced a plan to rebrand its stores as The Shack, and it kicked off the effort with a cross-country networked event in New York and San Francicso, complete with giant laptops and real-time live feed.

radioshack adBut does this rebranding make sense to the consumer? While RadioShack has long sold more than radios and parts, at least the name gave you some sort of idea what was inside – electronics and such. But what does a name like The Shack imply is behind those walls? Broomstick handles? Grass skirts? Shingles? Old hubcaps? It could be almost anything. (Perhaps the company realized that; it appears they’ve decided to keep the RadioShack signage on the outside – even while the ads are pleading with you to visit The Shack.)

While I applaud this effort to keep the brand relevant, in my mind, a half-rebrand-to-a-less-than-descriptive-name may not be the best way to go, leaving confusion all around. And an exec at branding agency Landor Associates (full disclosure: VantagePoint has competed with – and won against – Landor on a past client pitch) wisely notes in this BusinessWeek article that there are plenty of other cultural references about “shacks” that also must be overcome during the rebranding.

The TV advertising I saw this past weekend seemed mixed at best. Some referenced the relationship between RadioShack and The Shack; others were more heavily branded THE SHACK. If I hadn’t known what was up, I’m almost certain I would have been confused.

(What’s more, those cyclists among us were already a bit perplexed as to how they are going to attractively merge the yellow and black Livestrong brand with the red-R-in-a-circle RadioShack brand for next year’s Tour de France jerseys. Adding “The Shack” brand to the mix could raise more than a few eyebrows in the peleton.)

I suppose time will tell whether this will be a Federal Express-to-FedEx success, or a Royal Mail-to-Consignia (and back again) failure.

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