When I was in fourth grade, my teacher, a lovely woman, accidentally branded me with a less-than-desirable nickname. During our reading time, she was regaling us with the adventures of Frog and Toad when she made a perfectly understandable slip-of-the-tongue: she called the character “Toad,” “Todd” by accident. The gaff got some laughs, she apologized and then moved on. But it happened again. And again. And, if memory serves correctly, one more time. By the end of the story, the class was cracking up and I received a new moniker: Toad.
For the rest of the year, my friends called me “Toad,” rather than my given name. Being an easy-going chap, I rolled with the punches, accepting the name with aplomb. I even created a storytelling-drama group called “Toad’s Trio.”
I can only imagine what would have happened if I had resisted the name. Or, even worse, if I had tried to foist my own, preferred nickname upon my peers. “No, don’t call me ‘Toad.’ Just call me ‘Laser’ instead.” I didn’t have the chutzpah to declare my own nickname. Few people (other than rappers) do.
And so it is with brands. (How’s that for a segue?) Very few brands have the latitude to shorten their name to a catchy, shorter version. But they try.
The most persistent, and, in my opinion, misguided effort to get people to adopt a nickname comes from our friends at Radio Shack. They’ve been running TV spots for a little more than a year now, calling themselves “The Shack.” This nickname accompanies new brand messaging that they’re a hipper, younger, tech-savvy spot – not just a place to get obscure cables, sockets and transistors (or whatever it is you buy at Radio Shack).
Rebranding isn’t easy – you have to walk a tight line between being aspirational, pushing your brand in the direction you want it to go, while still reflecting who it is you really are at your core. Calling yourself something that no one is calling you and trying to claim you’re something that nobody thinks you are is going to be incredibly difficult and probably unsuccessful.
So, Radio Shack, if you’re listening, drop “The Shack.” Be who you are. Align your brand with what people think you are. Then push us gently in the direction you want us to go.
What do you think about Radio Shack’s branding effort? Have you started calling them “The Shack?”
P.S. Please, don’t call me “Toad.” It would break my mom’s heart to see me wear that name again.