One of the hot news items of the day is Radio Shack. The purveyor of cell phones, laptops, batteries, extension cords, power strips, and electrical doo dads appears to be changing the name to The Shack. It’s about time. Rebranding a well known name from the 20th century can be expensive. Apple has a similar problem with the iTunes Store.
Selling The Past
Radio Shack continues to prosper with 6,000 little stores throughout the country, despite a name that doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with radios.
It did. But it doesn’t anymore. Back in the day, my father used to shop at Radio Shack for electric gadgets, vacuum tubes, circuit boards, connectors, switches, capacitors, and all those little things do-it-yourselfers use to do it themselves.
In the digital age, Radio just doesn’t seem to fit, and the stores seem more like paradoxical links to the past and yet the present. You can buy cell phones and iPods at neighborhood Radio Shack outlets.
You can buy TV antennas (what televisions required before cable and the internet) and connectors, and more plastic bubble wrapped gadgets than anywhere else, and be pressured by nearly desperate sales people to give up your address and phone number.
The brand Radio Shack is well known. It’s just that the brand seems archaic with radio stuck at the beginning. Is it any wonder that Radio Shack may quickly become simply The Shack?
Remarkable, the digital age is moving so fast that foresight is a management quality in short supply, even at Apple, Inc. Note that it’s no longer Apple Computer, Inc. Just Apple.
That reflects Apple’s reaction to a business that is more diversified than ever. There’s the Mac, Mac software, iPods, iPhones, and, somewhat regrettably, iTunes Store.
The iPod was slow enough to catch on with the buying public that Apple had sufficient time to create a Windows version of iTunes and launch the iTunes Store to sell music before competitors realized what was going on.
iTunes Store was a perfect match for what it did five or six years ago. Like Radio Shack, iTunes Store no longer fits as the name that describes what’s going on inside.
Sure, we know what it is. That’s the power of branding. We also know what’s in Radio Shack although the name almost sounds 19th century Marconi-ish. iTunes Store is not just about tunes or music. So, the name is just wrong and, like Radio Shack’s rebranding efforts, should be changed.
What’s in a Name?
The name iTunes Store must drive Steve Jobs nuts. His obsessive compulsive streak wants to do something to fix it, but the reality is everyone already knows the name.
If iTunes Store as a brand name does not fully reflect what’s inside the store, and it no longer does, what name would do better as a future brand? Is Apple willing to risk changing the name of an online store and application which is used by hundreds of millions of customers worldwide?
How about Mediamart? Of course not. People know vaguely what media means but an online store with that name doesn’t hold much water for me. Apple’s iBooks and PowerBooks were re-branded as MacBook and MacBook Pro models, respectively, to broaden the Mac brand.
Apple Store is a brand which represents Apple’s physical retail stores. Would it also do double duty as the replacement for iTunes? Maybe. The iTunes Store is such a behemoth mess that it inhibits sales.
After all, iTunes Store is trying to be the Sears or Walmart of everything digital media. It’s ugly. It’s cluttered. It’s cumbersome to navigate. The saving grace is that there is not a better alternative online, and the purchasing process is at least easier than trying to find a way to buy something in the Apple Store.
Like Radio Shack, Apple’s iTunes Store needs a new name and more than a paint job.