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How to destroy your brand

In Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath  he speaks about business battles and other confrontations between underdogs and giants…discovering the nimbleness that a "David" has when battling the size of a "Goliath".  Winning isn't assured because of size…in fact very often the smaller competitor can out maneuver his larger target. In the news lately is Radio Shack.  In my eyes, Radio Shack tried to act like a Goliath in number of stores, but forgot how to utilize the strengths it had being the smaller competitor in a fast changing tech world…

When Radio Shack announced in March it was pulling the plug on 1,100 stores, it was almost too easy for the business punditocracy to offer up reasons for the “why.”

Lack of Brand Relevancy — How could a “radio” brand survive in a smartphone era? (Indeed, Radio Shack seemed to diagnose this problem itself, leading to a failed, short-lived re-brand as “The Shack” in 2009.)

Inability to Convert Brick and Mortar to Online — Radio Shack, presumably dealing in many things digital, only manages to ring up 1% of its sales online, trailing well below competitors like Best Buy.

Real Estate Bloat — Call it the “Gap problem,” where an ambitious retailer over-expands, becoming a square footage behemoth just as the Web begins to come into its own as a shopping “destination.”

All of those issues and more are helping to cripple a once powerful retailer, but from my perspective, Radio Shack started down the wrong path long ago, when it forgot that customers are its number one asset…not its store locations, inventory, or sales force.

Many years ago I needed a simple RCA audio cable for a new DVD player. At the time, these were not as easy to find as they are now. Owning to Radio Shack’s strength in that space, I immediately thought to run in there and grab one. Problem was, I was running late for a meeting and needed to be in and out quickly.

At the counter, the clerk began by asking me, not if I found everything OK, but for my name…my full name.

“What do you need that for?” I asked, literally with a $20 bill in my hand, obviously in a rush and ready to make a simple cash transaction.

“OK, phone number please.”

“My phone number? I’m really in a hurry.”

“I’m going to need it for your warranty, I also need your full mailing address, which is why I really do need your name. “

At this point I was ready to throw up my hands in frustration and walk out, but I really needed that cable. I don’t remember exactly how much info I coughed up, but I definitely remember the sour taste in my mouth as I left.

Moral of the Story

  • Just because you’re the smartest guy in the room, doesn’t mean you’re going to make the Customer “OK” when they approach you.
  • It’s not about what YOU know….it’s about what THEY need
  • When you try to be everything to everyone, you become nothing to no one
  • Change before you have to (i.e.: train your salespeople to be Trusted Advisors; train your Managers to be Leaders)
  • Change, or Be Changed


Ed Schultek

Founder & Managing Principal

Sandler Training / Peak Sales Performance

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