Just because it's packaged in a familiar brand name doesn't mean the old folks will buy it

·3 min read

Strange how often little bits of trivia stick in your mind, shoving out information that could be potentially useful, like how the timer on a coffee pot works.

From 15 years ago I clearly recall a headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion: “Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How Radio Shack Still in Business.”

The story went like this:

FORT WORTH, Tex. —  Despite having been on the job for nine months, RadioShack CEO Julian Day said Monday that he still has "no idea" how the home electronics store manages to stay open.

"There must be some sort of business model that enables this company to make money, but I'll be damned if I know what it is," Day said. "You wouldn't think that people still buy enough strobe lights and extension cords to support an entire nationwide chain, but I guess they must, or I wouldn't have this desk to sit behind all day."

Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

I remember it because about that time I had the exact same thought. I would walk past Radio Shack at the mall and see the prominent display of an assortment of rabbit-ear antennae and wonder, short of the Unibomber, who would have use for that? Maybe it was a crime deterrent. Maybe the store manager felt he’d be less likely to be victimized by a smash-and-grab if he had product out front that thieves wouldn’t know what to do with.

In the age of iTunes and mobile phones, Radio Shack was still selling boom boxes and CB adapter kits.

I only bring it up because I recently noticed a somewhat profane and wholly obnoxious tweet emanating from — Radio Shack. Huh? When did the guys over at Nerd Central start acting like 50 Cent?

Maybe this is what now passes for effective marketing. In today’s society, I no longer have a clear grasp of what I’m allowed to be offended by and what I’m prohibited from being offended by, so I let it go — until I saw a story talking about how Radio Shack, which went bankrupt years ago, is now owned by a profanity-spewing cryptocurrency front company.

“It’s our voice, a new voice, one for the people,” said Abel Czupor, the chief marketing officer. “RadioShack’s audience used to be only an older demographic, but as times have changed and e-commerce has taken over, the old voice of Radio Shack is no longer relevant.”

OK Samuel P. Chase, anything you say. But all of us who did NOT watch our life savings disappear into a crypto vortex over the past two months, please raise your hands. Thank you.

I will stipulate that the “old voice” of Radio Shack is no longer relevant, but that’s been true since 1988. If you have such a futuristic, whiz-bang shazam business, why associate yourself dowdy old Radio Shack? It’s as if the person who invented the Starship Enterprise had named it the Stanley Steamer.

But this falls into the category of corporate buzzards that buy up defunct companies with recognizable brand names like Sharper Image or Bell and Howell and use them to hawk rubber-band organizers and cheap sunglasses.

According to its website, Radio Shack, now RadioShack Swap, says the old fogey brand will help geezers relate to crypto: “There is a real generational gap between the average crypto user and the average business decision maker. This demographic difference creates a substantial psychological barrier to crypto adoption.”

No, you got it backward, kiddo. The reason “business decision makers” have the funds to invest is expressly because they don’t fall for crypto ponzi schemes. It’s not a psychological barrier, it's the very real barrier fueled by an aversion to losing money.

If you gave your money to the old Radio Shack, all you got was a trunk full of ham radio parts. Not great, but still better than nothing.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Crypto kids try to lure in old fogies by going back to Radio Shack