The Power of BrandEarlier this week we began a three-part series looking at brands facing identity crises and what banks and credit unions can learn from them. Today the series continues with a look at RadioShack.

Specific brand amnesia: Multiple business personalities

Patient: RadioShack
For decades, RadioShack was a primary go-to source for in-home consumer electronics. Gadgets like the popular TRS-80 home computer brought consumers in droves. Unfortunately, like all good things, the 1980s had to come to an end. Unfortunately, no one at RadioShack apparently got that message (despite a relatively hilarious and self-deprecating Super Bowl commercial this year). For the past decade or so, RadioShack has thrashed around like a guppy on the carpet trying to figure out exactly who it is. Perhaps not surprisingly, squeezing the words "Radio Shack" into the currently used single-word version and an unsuccessful foray into an entirely new name didn't help.

RadioShack has tried its hand in just about every possible combination of consumer electronics you can imagine. From personal computers to walkie-talkies and electronic repairs to wireless phones, RadioShack has dipped its toe into many different waters. The problem is that consumers are simply confused by this revolving door of business personalities. Do you go to RadioShack for MP3 players and televisions? Do you go to RadioShack for cell phones and stereo wire? Do you go to RadioShack for (gasp!) radios? 

To be fair, RadioShack is in a fight for survival not just with multiple business personalities, but with irrelevancy. However, the struggle to reinvent itself might go easier were it not for the bevy of competing identities. When you think of buying something at RadioShack, what's your first thought? The answer doesn't come quickly and when it does, it's a gray area at best. The ongoing digital revolution has left RadioShack in its dust and the company continues to struggle with focusing on a singular identity for the modern consumer. One market analyst referred to the apparent slow death of RadioShack as "death by 1000 cuts." Gone are the days when consumers actually opened up their home electronics to tinker and attempt do-it-yourself repairs. When the nucleus of your corporate identity goes extinct, you have two choices — adapt or die with it.

Prescription: brand with focus. Undoubtedly, executives at RadioShack have asked questions similar to the following: Who are we? Why do people need us? What connection exists between the modern consumer and RadioShack? In order to build a successful brand, all companies (including financial institutions) must answer these questions. The answers from RadioShack are, at best, bumbling and confused. To be fair, the need for a company like RadioShack may no longer exist. Relatively cheap and disposable modern consumer electronics simply do not jive with either the original RadioShack business model or any of its more modern iterations. While it is possible to create focus in a brand message for a company facing challenges like RadioShack, the medical equivalent is probably something like giving antibiotics to a corpse.

Be sure to check out the blog Friday when we wrap up our three-part series on brand identity crises with a look at Barnes & Noble.

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