RadioShack has a new nickname. Starting this week, the company’s new “brand creative platform” will be “The Shack.” Beyond the fact that the less descriptive name is also less forward looking, the repositioning gets to a larger point. Where does a brand go when its focus becomes outdated?

In the case of RadioShack, they’re moving into the crowded market of computer and wireless providers.

According to the company’s publicity materials:

“We have tremendous equity in consumers’ minds around cables, parts and
batteries, but it’s critically important that we help them to
understand the role that we play in keeping people connected in this
highly mobile world. You will see a real focus on
mobility and wireless products from leading brands in our new

About 30% of the company’s sales are from wireless and connectivity
products now, but going forward “The Shack” will focus more on products currently provided by companies like BestBuy and various mobile carriers.

In describing the company’s name and business shift, their press release details:

“This creative is not about changing our name. Rather, we’re
contemporizing the way we want people to think about our brand. THE
SHACK speaks to consumers in a fresh, new voice and distinctive
creative look that reinforces RadioShack’s authority in innovative
products, leading brands and knowledgeable, helpful associates.”

What exactly is contemporary about the concept of a shack, you ask? The brand argues that it will be easier to tweet and share. But it is also less descriptive for searching purposes online. And while radios may not be the most forward looking pieces of technology, they probably have one up on the concept of makeshift shacks.

Meanwhile, the bigger issue is what is happening with the company’s business focus. To celebrate “The Shack,” the company is having a bicoastal party called a “Netogether”:

“The Shack Summer Netogether will
connect New York and San Francisco via larger-than-life laptops August
6th-8th. The laptops will appear in Times Square and at Justin Herman
Plaza, and will stream live webcam images to each other from 3,000
miles apart. Check back for the schedule to see bands, contest, etc.
and be sure to come back to check out the live stream.”

If you’re looking for a flat footed way to modernize a brand, taking something that is light and mobile and turning it 14-feet tall stationary “laptop” might be a good way to go.

Companies like Pizza Hut, Stereo Barn and Dress Barn are all dealing with the same problem today: outdated names that not only fail to sound fresh and new, they actually work against the companies’ goals (Show me a woman who wants to think of the word “barn” while purchasing new clothes, for instance).

In the case of a company like Kentucky Fried Chicken, it’s a problem easier solved by abbreviation. But with only two words in a brand name like RadioShack, it becomes harder.

And for a company created in 1919, choosing to make this shift
now seems a bit odd. Radios are no less antiquated now than they were
10 years ago. The new Shack website is trying to be more social. It
publicizes the new party and declares: “Our friends call us The
Shack”). But beyond competing with people already established in the connectivity space, RadioShack is now competing for name recognition with Shaquille O’Neal: The Real Shaq.

And before the name shift, RadioShack was actually making some progress toward updating its brand. Federated Media recently created Radio Shack Invention Lab,
which was a site where viewers could post DIY items they created with
RadioShack products and get further purchase solutions from RadioShack.

Things like this, that get back to the basics as a company known for
helpful service and useful products, would be a much better strategy
then creating nonsense buzz words like a Netogether with a large live show or simplifying a brand name beyond the point of recognition.

The company has set itself up for a lot of work in explaining the change online. RadioShack’s Twitter handle (The_Shack) may only have 118 followers, but they are working hard to keep up with people talking about the change. Mention the brand or a tech problem on Twitter and you likely get a response from The_Shack along these lines:

@volvoshine Dude, your name is ‘volvoshine’. A little like the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think?

We will go out of business when we run out of both awesome and haters. Ooh, SNAP!

Our name change? That’s official. It’s our official ‘nickname’. We’re still RadioShack on lots of financial paperwork. That’s all