What Can Be Learned from RadioShack

When a household brand name, such as RadioShack, has sustained its business for decades, a curious crossroads can appear on its horizon. On the one hand is the tried-and-true direction the company has always taken, while on the other hand is something that would be altogether new.

The angst in this decision is choosing between what has worked for years and trying something that is new and different. Because the problem is so critical and has such enormous consequences—not to mention these types of decisions often need to be made quickly—there is a huge pressure on management.

The older the brand, the tougher the decision

Over the years I have observed, and consulted with, a good number of venerable brands that were tearing themselves up because they could not come to a cohesive decision on which way to go.

• Their technology had changed.

• The market wasn’t buying their type of widgets anymore.

• There were new players in their key markets and on their key customers’ doorsteps.

• Direct sales distribution had always been the primary sales drivers of the brand, but their customers were moving to online ordering and didn’t want any direct sales people in their offices.

On and on the stories would go, with no resolution or decision in sight.

Why does this happen to some companies and not to others? I would argue that it happens to all companies that have been around long enough, but that’s not the real problem. The real issue is how well the company has stayed in touch with its customers throughout the years. That is usually the critical mass to their continuing success.

Hard as it is to accept, many companies are simply not up to the task of reinventing themselves, preferring to stay with what has always worked and go down with the ship.

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Tom Marin is the managing partner of MarketCues.com and provides corporate and brand strategy to organizations of all sizes. He has an extensive background in the graphic arts, printing, publishing and media industries. Marin is an accredited member of the national and international chapters of the Business Marketing Assn., is a (CBC) certified business communicator and a past marketing chair of the Chicago chapter.

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