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The voice of the brand strategy consultancy, CultureRanch LLC

The Brand Man Speaks is a dialogue about contemporary culture, the consuming world in which we live and a guide to successfully navigating it. The goal is to educate people and companies about branding, the most powerful yet misunderstood business tool, and its impact on our culture.

To learn more about branding and CultureRanch LLC visit our website. Click on the link above, or click this link to the CultureRanch Blog Contact Page. 

February 04, 2014

Radio Shack to close 500 stores just after launching new ad campaign

In what seems like ill-timed announcements and (superbowl ad) expenditures Radio Shack apparently will be closing 500 stores in the near future (Radio Shack Closing Stores). The electronics retailer has been struggling for years to figure out where it stands in the marketplace and in the opinion of this branding guy has been clueless. The new "brand" campaign launched on the superbowl shows 80s icons throwing out the old Radio Shack to make way for a new version, 3.0. (Yes, been there done that already folks a few times). Cute ad fun to watch but means nothing really.

Radio Shack reminds me of JC Penney and Linen and Things (now defunct)...retail brands that don't have any reason d'etre or purpose. No clear positioning but just seem to hang on and exist until they die.

Sure the stock surged a bit based on viewing of the new TV ad giving the impression the brand was finally throwing out dead wood to make room for the "future". But it remains to be seen what that future brand will really look like. Re-inventing a brand is FAR MORE than just one cute ad. What was missing is what is the positioning for the future. I know it was well received by viewers...sure, it was entertaining but as anyone in the ad business knows, entertaining ads many times do NOT drive business.

Years ago Radio Shack was the place to go for electronic hobbyists but as the world changed and the internet became our link to find stuff you needed--especially more up to date and relevant stuff you needed, the retailer readily became obsolete, just its management wasn't ready to give in. Numerous re-branding efforts have failed. (Most recently "The Shack"...huh? meaningless). It tried to become a mobile-phone centric retailer but failed because of too much competition in that field. Additionally, in my personal experience the retailer's staff are some of the most unfriendly people in electronics or any business for that the point of arrogance or maybe its disinterest. That certainly didn't help.

It is time for the brand to close shop OR find some very meaningful way to connect with consumers...which I do not think is in the cards despite Hulk Hogan and the other 80s icons who caused us to smile.

Watching out for you everyday.


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October 10, 2013

JCPenney continues to make stupid branding mistakes. Changes logo again. Time to say goodbye

In another lame backwards move to try to stay alive, mid market retailer JCPenney has announced it is eliminating its contemporary American flag style acronym logo (JCP) and re-using its old (and tired) logo from the past.

This company just doesn't get it. Changing the logo for the 3rd time in a few years only causes confusion among consumers but more importantly is just a veneer fix. The real problems strategically with the retailer are not getting resolved and a graphics change won't save them. Period.

It is astounding to me that such a huge company can't find the right people with the right talent to save this place. Maybe it just shouldn't be saved, the brand should fold (the stock is tanking as would be expected) and just sell off its real estate and be done with it.

I have written numerous pieces on this failure of gigantic proportions as have many notable branding experts. This is just another case of my "father's Oldsmobile"....a dated out of touch business that has lost its way has no sense of its reason for being and connects with fewer and fewer consumers everyday.

This will surely be one of the great brand case studies how to destroy a brand.

Watching out for you everday.


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September 13, 2013

Apple clearly losing its mojo, losing sight of its rasion d'etre

I have been unabashedly a long time fan of anything Apple. I don't own any IT equipment that isn't made by Apple along with all the rest of the accessories and other toys.

I have from the beginning talked and written about Apple as the gold standard of how to market a business and make it an iconic brand. The company was highly successful because it created a journey for its loyalists to go on even if the journey included the creation of demand for things none of knew we needed. It as brilliant.

People clammered for Apple products for more than just the product themselves but more importantly what it said about "you" as an owner/user of Apple branded technology and what kind of lifestyle you wanted to lead. People were enrolled in the brand's essence, emotionally connected to any and all things Apple.

In the past two years since Steve Jobs died it does seem Apple has lost its Mojo. The brand is losing its luster, and loyalists are bored and feel there is no longer a meaningful journey to follow. Focusing on pricing (the current debate about the iPhone 5C and 5S) and competiting as a commodity can mean the death for any company.

In recent days all I read about is how Wall Street analysts are finding fault with Apple's pricing strategy. That may be a valid point. The bigger issue for a brand marketeer such as myself is why isn't anybody calling Apple out for losing its brand focus? That's the real story.Apple's current Ad Campaign is the worst in years and puts most people to sleep or is just ignored. Millions wasted.

If Apple can't find that Mojo again and it doesn't bring its loyalists back on a journey the company may forever fall out of favor and become another Sony. Sony, as you may remember, lost its way when it signficantly cut back R and D to shore up its P and L (and its Wall St position) after spending years as the most innovative personal electronics company on the planet. That mistake proved fatal to Sony who is now considered a second or third tier electronics company with dull commodity products. The brand was forever damanged and weakened by that short term decision.

I am hopeful both as a current Apple loyalist and stockholder that someone will save the day and re-open that pathway to an exciting journey for another decade or more.

Watching out for you everyday.




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August 14, 2013

JC Penney continues to make stupid marketing decisions. Most recent TV ad for children's back to school clothing coming off as a pro bullying ad. Copy says that the right clothing can "make or break" your kids year at school. Meaning if they don't have the right branded clothing they are going to be on the outs with other kids. Who's running this company? It seems adrift more everyday.

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August 02, 2013

Apple retail stores feeling worn and tired. Where's the beef?

For some time now I have been wondering why Apple retail stores seemed stale, worn and tired. I couldn't quite put my finger on the problem but it was very apparent. I didn't feel the same about the brand while in the stores. They seemed to be missing that amazing energy and buzz factor. Sure, my two local stores are still quite busy but not the same.

Today, I read a story in the Wall St. Journal about this very subject and it was very enlightening and disheartening at the same time. It seems that replacement hire for Ron Johnson the previous head of stores who had gone off to manage JC Penney's re-branding effort (which failed and he was canned) John Browett had dramatically shifted how the stores were to be run.

Browett went for cost savings and sales push over customer service, one of the Apple stores key points of difference over the years versus other tech retailers. The report states he took customer service people (especially the tech gurus) and forced them to be sales associates more often than helpful brand building agents. He cut back everything in the store that was part of its great image including the logo'd T-shirts employees wear to the point many started looking thread bare. What was Apple's management thinking when they hired this guy? He has been fired but not replaced and although the store experience is improving it still remains adrift until it has a new leader.

Apple increasingly seems lost at sea in many ways and CEO Cook can't seem to get the boat on any course that inspires loyalists like myself to be more involved in the brand like I used to be.

Watching out for you everyday.


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