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RadioShack CCMO Jennifer Warren Talks Company's Revamp with Music, Plans for Latin Market (Q&A)

For a while there, everyone thought RadioShack was growing a bit stale. But following a major management change in 2013, the brand is back with a new focus on music -- evidenced through campaigns featuring the likes of Robin Thicke and Steve Aoki -- and a new sense of humor, as displayed in its SuperBowl 2014 TV spot, where the 80’s call “wanting their store back” and featuring icons of the decade like Mary Lou Rhetton, Chucky and Hulk Hogan. Billboard spoke with chief creative marketing officer Jennifer Warren about the brand’s new direction and its plans for music and for the Latin market. Warren will present a case study presentation April 23 as part of the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami (register at www.billboardlatinconference.com). Read on for a preview on RadioShack’s increased emphasis on music.      

After many years of not focusing on music, RadioShack is back in that space with a vengeance. What triggered that move?
We had shifted our focus to other product categories like mobility. When the new management team came onboard a year ago,  everyone reflected on our true brand DNA as a company, what customer we served and getting back to our roots. [And] from a product perspective, [music] is one of our biggest growth categories. Bluetooth speakers and headphones, our audio line; and we began developing strategic partnerships with a lot of suppliers like Beats and Sol Republic. The first one was the Robin Thicke “Blurred Lines” partnership we did with Beats. It was about wanting to become relevant again as a brand.

In the Latin realm, you included reggaetón duo Alexis & Fido in a TV spot for Sol Republic’s new Deck wireless speakers that also featured DJ Steve Aoki, Lil’ John and Michael Phelps. How did that partnership help RadioShack?
I think it was a win-win. It helped us connect and demonstrate relevance to a really important customer segment. When Sol Republic came to us they brought great talent to the table and we said, we want to make sure we also connect with our Hispanic customer. And Alexis & Fido came about as part of that. We used their hit, “locate," which gave them exposure; at the same time we added relevance to ourselves by having such a popular song on our commercial.  

You’ve continued to do music-themed campaigns. How do you measure success?
We do studies on brand engagement and perception. So we measure from a perception perspective as well as sales of products were promoting. Another key channel is in our social listening  and social engagement. We monitor that really closely and saw huge engagement in the ad we did featuring Alexis Y Fido, for example. 

How else is RadioShack reaching out to the Latin consumer?
We’re working to host a music lab in Miami. This is part of our “Do It Together” campaign we just launched. We’re partnering with Alexis & Fido to mentor new and emerging artists and we’ll select a handful of artists to have one on one sessions where they actually get advice from them during the Billboard Latin Music Conference. We see invention as part of our DNA and musicians are a huge part of that.

How do you choose these artists?
These are up and coming artists who already have an established career. The idea is to take their career to the next level. So far we have four who will each get sessions that are between half an hour and 40 minutes. The idea is to have four and five, and have a session that's half an hour to 40 minutes. This is the first time we do it. We’re excited about this new campaign of anything being possible by working together. And this came about from our brand strategy.

What other music-driven campaigns do you have coming up?
We have a lot of opportunities we’re evaluating right now. But our “Do It Together” campaign is around this notion of anything is possible when you do it together and music is often a part of that campaign. Music is a growing category for us.

Your Super Bowl ad was quite bold. Tell us about that?
It was fortunately very successful for us. I told people when I left for the weekend, I will or will not have a job on Monday. It came out of real customer insight and it was based on some unfortunate reality which is, people thought we were stuck in the past. We used that as our insight of the 80s. We wanted people to know it’s time for a change and get back with the times and modernize ourselves.