RadioShack reinvents itself as a crypto platform with wild tweets

Placeholder when loading item promotions

Gen Z may not be familiar with their grandparents’ RadioShack, but they get to know its replacement. The 100-year-old retailer re-introduced itself on Twitter this week with a torrent of often mundane tweets – some have since been deleted – filled with crude comments and drug references.

Variations on “What on earth is going on?” The comment threads peppered, but a look at the company’s Twitter profile contained part of the answer: RadioShack is no longer the electronics store Americans ran for generations, but 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 as 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 twice filed for bankruptcy, growing from about 5,200 U.S. stores in 2014 to about 400 when private equity firm Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV) bought it in 2020.

This year, the retail industry’s vulnerabilities have been fully recognized during the coronavirus pandemic, the rush shows of bankruptcy filings. That’s when Miami-based REV snapped up a bunch of distressed retailers planning to convert them into online-focused stores, including home goods store Pier 1 Imports, sporting goods chain Modell’s and discounter Stein Mart.

REV was founded by Alex Mehr, co-founder of online dating site, 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 comes with more flexibility and lower transaction fees than trading. Its token called $RADIO is worth about a cent.

Crypto scams are on the rise and have devoured more than $1 billion in the last year

On RadioShack Swap’s website, the company said its relaunch is targeting people not typically thought of as crypto investors. “There’s a real generational gap between the average crypto user and the average business decision maker,” the company said. “This demographic difference creates a significant psychological barrier to crypto adoption.”

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

However, with his latest marketing strategy on Twitter, reactions have been mixed. One day, the platform itself “arbitrarily closed our account and locked us out.” said Czupor, although some tweets were later recovered.

A few internet figures with many followers posted warnings, vocation it is an “advertising campaign to win public favor for their crypto scheme” and urge people not to fall for 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,” indicating the value of his token in a thread analyzing his strategy.

“These criticisms are completely false,” the company said in an email. “Sales have actually increased since we started upping our Twitter game over the past few weeks.”

Kylie Cammon, 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 that kind of humor,” she said. “They definitely got what they were looking for there.”

Though some of the content might be considered offensive, Cammon said it “might not necessarily matter to her audience.” It was a gamble for RadioShack to go after the eyeballs while risking upsetting a larger crowd, she said.

RadioShack, which refused to identify the “intern” behind the Twitter posts, made clear its commitment to the strategy Internet shorthand: “Smelting intern here. I wanted to take a second to think about my post. I expect to say, in my wildest dreams, I never thought this tweet would go viral and apologize. … No, we weren’t hacked and no, I wasn’t fired. Buckle up …”

The campaign comes at a bad time for the crypto industry. Bitcoin, the major cryptocurrency, is trading at nearly $19,000, down more than 70 percent from its November peak. South Korean crypto project Terra — with both a token and a so-called “algorithmic stablecoin” — saw much of its value wiped out in a matter of days in May. This led to losses across the market, including crypto bank Celsius, which would freeze assets, and hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, which would be liquidated this week.