RadioShack reinvents itself as a crypto platform with wild tweets

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Gen Z may not be familiar with their grandparents’ RadioShack, but they are getting to know its replacement. The 100-year-old shopkeeper reintroduced himself on Twitter this week with a stream of often profane tweets — some of which have since been deleted — filled with crass comments and drug references.

Variations of “What the heck is going on?” punctuated the comment threads, but a look at the company’s Twitter profile contained part of the answer: RadioShack is no longer the electronics store Americans walked to for generations, but rather an online cryptocurrency company that also happens to sell batteries.

“It’s our voice, a new voice, one for the people,” said Abel Czupor, Chief Marketing Officer. “RadioShack’s audience used to be just an older demographic, but now that times have changed and e-commerce has taken over, RadioShack’s old voice is no longer relevant.”

After a decade of decline, RadioShack was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in 2015. In its struggle to find a brand identity, the chain filed for bankruptcy twice, going from about 5,200 stores in the US in 2014 to about 400 when private equity firm Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV) bought it. in 2020.

That year, retail vulnerabilities were fully realized during the coronavirus pandemic, as evidenced by the crowds of bankruptcy filings. That’s when Miami-based REV released some ailing retailers plan to revive them in online-focused stores, including homewares retailer Pier 1 Imports, sporting goods chain Modell’s and discount retailer Stein Mart.

REV was founded by Alex Mehr, the co-founder of the online dating site Zoosk.com, and Tai Lopez, an online influencer known for coaching about his lavish lifestyle. They launched RadioShack Swap, a decentralized crypto exchange platform that allows users to swap coins or tokens, a format that offers greater flexibility and lower transaction costs than trading. The token, called $RADIO, is worth about one cent.

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On the RadioShack Swap website, the company said the relaunch was aimed at people not normally considered crypto investors. “There is a real generation gap between the average crypto user and the average business decision maker,” the company said. “This demographic difference creates a substantial psychological barrier to crypto adoption.”

In a May statement, the company reported trading volume of $40 million, with a daily average of $500,000 to $2 million. “The swap is adding two or three new tokens every week, and we continue to see a lot of interest especially from gaming token startups. They understand that the RadioShack brand is congruent with their own game,” Mehr said.

But with the latest marketing strategy on Twitter, reactions were mixed. One day, the platform itself “randomly shut down our account and locked us out”. Czupor said, though some tweets were later reinstated.

Some internet figures with large numbers of followers posted warnings, calling it is an “ad campaign to gain public favor for their crypto scheme” and urges people not to kick it. Jack Appleby, author of Morning Brew’s social media newsletter Future Social, said that “engagement doesn’t matter if it doesn’t translate into sales,” pointing to the value of its token in a thread analyzing its strategy.

“That criticism is completely false,” the company said in an email. “Sales have actually grown since we started improving our Twitter game in the past few weeks.”

Kylie Cammon, the founder of social media marketing consultancy Flying Hare Social, called RadioShack’s tweets an effective way to gain visibility. “Anyone interested in crypto is interested in this kind of humor,” she said. “They definitely got what they were looking for there.”

While some of the content could be considered offensive, Cammon said their target audience “might not necessarily care.” It was a gamble for RadioShack to go after the eyeballs and risk alienating a larger group, she said.

RadioShack, which declined to identify the “trainee” behind the Twitter posts, made clear its commitment to the strategy. In a tweet filled with internet shorthand: “Shack intern here. I just wanted to take a moment to think about my post. I expected to say, in my wildest dreams I never thought that tweet would go viral and apologize. … No, we weren’t hacked, and no, I wasn’t fired. Brace yourself …”

The campaign comes at a bad time for the crypto industry. Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency, is trading near $19,000, more than 70 percent below its November peak. South Korea’s Terra crypto project — which includes both a token and a so-called “algorithmic stablecoin” — saw much of its value wiped out in a matter of days in May. That caused losses across the market, including for crypto bank Celsius, which would freeze assets, and hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, which would fall into liquidation this week.

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