A nickname does not make you more cool

Picture 2

I remember a Disney (made for TV) film that my daughter used to enjoy.  It was about this nerdy kid named Charlie.  He lamented his lack of coolness, so he decided to re-invent himself.   Cooler clothes, a new, cool haircut but the lynch pin to his plan was the nickname.  Chaz.

All of a sudden, Charlie (as Chaz) exuded cool.

Of course, you can guess how it ended.  Chaz became the darling of the school but when he was exposed as a fraud, he learned two valuable lessons.  You can't fake cool and in the end…you are who and what you are.

I wish I had a DVD of this movie.  You know who I'd send it to?  The CMOs of Radio Shack and Walgreens.

Radio Shack, a very uncool brand, has decided to slap on some cool by asking us to call them "The Shack."  So many problems with this, it's staggering.

  • When you hear "The Shack"  who or what do you think of?  (either the basketball player or the book)
  • Even if you bought into nickname, the stores are still the same — packed to the gills with wires, switches, and gizmos.  The Apple Store is cool.  Radio Shack…not so much.
  • Radio Shack already has a very entrenched brand…and it isn't about being cool!


In the same vein, Walgreens has recently re-branded their private label products.  You used to be able to buy Walgreens shampoo but now…it's W shampoo. Yes…that does make me forget that it's generic.

Again…nothing they do is going to make Walgreens cool.  We don't really need or want Walgreens to be cool. 

We want them to be open 24 hours/day. 

We want them to stock most prescriptions so we can call and then pick it up an hour later.

We even want them to keep a good supply of Haagen Dazs ice cream so we can rush up there at 11 pm and pay an exorbitant price…because we need it now!

We don't need Radio Shack or Walgreen's to be cool.  And in fact, we won't let them be cool.  No matter how cool their nickname might be.

The lesson here for us marketing types?  A brand is not something you manufacture.  It doesn't come from your name or your logo.  It comes from within.  It is born out of who you actually are.  No matter how cool your nickname might be.

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13 comments on “A nickname does not make you more cool

  1. Ryan Barton says:

    Don’t forget about “The Hut” — now, without “pizza” in the name, they can serve anything from pasta to chicken wings!

  2. Ian Campbell says:

    You know, I agree and disagree with this comment. First of all, your mention of Radio Shack’s latest campaign made me start laughing because it mirrors my thoughts exactly. Every time I see or hear those commercials I roll my eyes.

    The Walgreen’s rebranding, though, I’ve actually seen before, and I’ve seen it done quite successfully. In my hometown of Rochester, NY, there’s a chain grocery store called Wegman’s. Wegman’s was awesomely groundbreaking in their marketing efforts, as they were one of the first (if not the first) to employ a club card program and their own brands. Now these brands started off just like any other generic brand (viewed as sub-par and just over all cheesy), but over time, their brands became known for their excellence (one of their own brands was soda called “W-POP”, which is what reminded me of this).

    Now I’m not saying that Walgreen’s has what it takes to do the same, we’ll see if it works out for them down the line. But one thing’s for sure, it’s definitely possible to make a change like this and have it take off.

  3. Laynie — there’s the heart of the matter. “Sooner or later, the real will show up.” That is the heart of branding, IMO.

    It’s not about making yourself into something you are not, it’s about digging deep enough to figure out who you really are…and celebrating that.


  4. Ryan,

    Oh, I missed “The Hut.” Thanks for adding it into the mix!


  5. Justin Brady says:

    As always, making me think…

    Was this RadioShack’s attempt to be cool, or possibly their understanding that the word “radio” in their name may not be relevant in this mobile web / internet society? As you mentioned, they are known for wires and old stuff, so this may be a soft re-branding. I am sure their CMO will phase out “Radio” within the next few years.

    I am not saying I agree with the new name, but how else would they get out of their dated reputation minus a 50 million re-brand strategy? (example: Cingular is now the new AT&T)

    I have a theory on generic brands too, but that will come in my blog post later… 😉 I will make sure to tweet about it.

  6. Ian,

    Sounds like Wegman’s had a bit of the cool factor (as much as a grocery store chain can) before the name shift. Did they?

    That’s what I think will be the uphill battle for Walgreen’s. We already have assigned them a brand.

    Time will tell!


  7. Your Brand is every interaction a customer has with your company and how they FEEL about that interaction. I learned that years ago and realized that the best way to brand yourself is figure out what everyone already likes about you and then BE THAT.

    A few years ago Wal-Mart tried to get into upscale cheap fashions. It didn’t work out. Last year they went back to their core value of “we sell really cheap stuff” and knocked the socks off the competition.

    Like the genie said to Aladdin in the Disney film, “Beee who you are.”

    Here’s a free eBook on the topic of Branding that maybe these corporations should read.


  8. Tom Hoad says:

    If you search google for ‘The Shack’ you get absolutely nothing to do with Radio Shack. Apart from a link to http://www.radioshack.com/theshack/, which doesn’t work!

    Very poor rebranding planning!

  9. Joe Lamachia says:

    Some of what you comment on is accurate. Other elements, not so much. Ryan is correct about Wegman’s, which I’m familiar with during my formative years in Syracuse. As a former ad agency exec, I know of Wegman’s success with their brands. As high end supermarkets go, they enjoy the highest revenue per square foot. The Walgreen’s packaging example you provide is not just a case of a copycat approach. The similarities in design to Old Spice are intentional. They’re not trying to be cool. They want a certain familiarity to bolster push strategy. The Walgreen’s brand quality can capitalize on the familiar look of the packaging. Walgreen’s is not the only chain using packaging design similarities successfully. Well-known packaged goods brands are guilty as charged.

    Radio Shack, on the other hand, has always catered to a wide variety of consumers. But in our rapidly developing era of technology, the “Radio”
    element of their brand is not so relevant to savvy consumers. Their “Shack” campaign is an effort to re-position themselves for consumer acceptance. The question is: will the disparate awareness it’s creating turn into brand growth and increased market share? So, it’s not just a matter of “cool” injected into the brand. It’s relinquishing the “Radio” part of the handle. “Radio Shack” does not accurately reflect the wide variety of their brand. They’re not just wires, switches and gizmos. The next step should be a real effort to reinforce “The Shack” re-positioning with focused spots targeting the multitude of products they offer under one roof. The shortened brand banner, with some astute marketing commnications strategy, could pay off. A good place to start would be some of the techniques employed by Target.

    A brand’s equity includes all aspects in the marketplace: price, its distribution, value, perception, consumer satisfaction, packaging,
    market share and more. Name changing, in Radio
    Shack’s campaign, is not about being cool.
    It’s about targeting their demographic with an accurate reflection of who and what they are.

    So, Drew, your basic premise that Radio Shack
    and Walgreen’s are attempting to be cool is
    YOUR perception of their strategy. It’s an
    assumption that, upon closer examination, is
    not the case.

  10. Justin (and Joe)

    Actually, it was both. Radio Shack does want to distance themselves from the word radio. But please note, they are not changing their name. This is an ad campaign. (see this article for confirmation – http://tinyurl.com/yetuwh5 )

    But they’re not just trying to distance themselves from their name. They are also trying to shift their brand image to something a bit more cool. They are fighting to stay relevant.

    The problem is…use whatever words you want — this is a superficial solution to a deep problem. Check out a Radio Shack store or their website. They look like the brand perception we have of them…a jam packed electronics/parts store.

    You don’t just cross off part of your name and expect the public to see you differently.


  11. Tom & Tessa,

    Agreed. Again, it’s a surface solution to a serious problem — relevance.

    As I said above, time will tell.


  12. Joe Lamachia says:


    My comments say nothing of a name change. It’s obviously an ad campaign, nada else. Their relevance
    is tied to what they offer. They’ve missed the boat for years by failing to communicate that. There have been sporadic bursts of relevance in their awareness campaigns. But no consistency. That’s the key to any successful marketing. Consistent, focused brand image to develop brand loyalty with relevance for the consumer. It’s especially important in light of today’s fragmented media terrain.

    As for the “jam packed electronics/parts store” moniker, that could be said of other chains like Best Buy. They’re jam packed with merchandise showcased in more square footage. So the accessories, cables and small paraphernalia are not fighting for space with all the electronics gear. No surprise there. A pedestrian approach that’s been used in megastores for years. Certainly not an Apple Store. Best Buy and their brethren are not much different than Radio Shack. Just bigger and more jammed. And how is their or similar websites so much better than Radio Shack’s?
    The Shack web design is not any worse than hundreds of others with a similar marketing mission.

    So your recent conclusion that eliminating part of a brand name in an ad campaign is not conducive to positive consumer perception, still does not acknowledge what I explained earlier. Shedding “Radio” makes them more relevant to who they are: a one-stop store with a wide variety of electronics products. Cool may play a role, but it’s secondary to the real intent of shortening the name for their current campaign.

  13. Paul Picadilly says:

    I call Pizza Hut “The Hut” because of former “Hit the Hut” campaigns.

    RadioShack is so horseshht, it’s all whored out to mobile/apple stuff now. The actual electronics are subpar and overpriced. They are nicknamed forever “Radio Crap”.

    At my family we call Walgreen’s “Willard’s”. It just came to me and stuck forever.

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