Radio Shack’s Super Bowl Fumble

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Radio Shack ran an ad during this year’s Super Bowl. It was essentially an acknowledgement that their stores have been horribly out-of-date.

After establishing the premise of “The 80’s called – they want their store back,” a stream of retro characters poured into a Radio Shack store and began to dismantle it.

Hey look! It's Hulk Hogan! And Erik Estrada! And the guy from Cheers! Let's go buy electronics!
Hey look! It’s Hulk Hogan! And Erik Estrada! And the guy from Cheers! Let’s go buy electronics!

Some people liked it. “Funny!” they said. Or, “Look at all these characters I recognize!” Or, “I’m in my mid-forties, and I equate these warm pangs of nostalgia with quality advertising!”

I liked the ad less. What it didn’t do is give you, the consumer, a compelling reason to visit the new Radio Shack.  This is a huge missed opportunity, given the audience and the investment.

The ad essentially said, “We know we’ve sucked for years, hahahahaha wink wink, but we’re not going to tell you how we’ve changed.” I don’t consider that a successful advertisement.

Despite the investment in the Super Bowl ad, Radio Shack announced this week that they are closing 1,100 stores.  That’s nearly 20% of its locations. While there are always many reasons behind such a major decision, it’s clear that the ads didn’t do what they were intended to do.  They didn’t drive traffic to Radio Shack stores.

Those of us without multi-million dollar budgets would do well to remember that advertising, like any marketing tool, is objective-driven. If the Radio Shacks of the world want to believe they’re in the entertainment business, that’s fine.  But don’t learn the wrong lessons from them.

Great advertising doesn’t have to entertain.  But it does have to work.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2014 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.