Friday, February 5, 2010

Re-branding - from the pages of The Dramatist

Here is my editor's note from the November 2009 issue.  Reprinted by permission of The Dramatist, Journal of the Dramatists Guild of America.

As I crossed Times Square, on the way to work today, I encountered a giant laptop.  Open, the thing was about two stories high  Perhaps there comes a point when the term ‘laptop’ is no longer appropriate, at least in the absence of a giant lap.  Nevertheless, there it was and it was huge.  It was the kick off to Radio Shack’s rebranding campaign.  From now on, it’s just “The Shack.”  Seriously.  It’s always hard to take this kind of corporate, focus group-driven stuff with a straight face.  It may have tested well with seniors, single moms, and windsurfing paleontologists, but we’re not suddenly going to find ourselves saying, “I’m just swinging by The Shack to pick up some power convertors."    It will never stick. Their multi-million dollar campaign will fail.  You can’t tell us what to call you, and that’s all there is to it. 

But, of course, we know that’s not true. People will use the new handle, perhaps ironically at first. But, as ludicrous as it seems now, in a few years a news anchor will remark that, "most of the components found in Kaczynski’s remote Montana cabin are available at your local The Shack."  And we won’t think anything of it.  Bewildered children will ask you, “What’s Radio Shack?” as if you had handed them an eight-track. 

Well if The Shack can do it, why can’t I?   I want to rebrand myself too.  Isn’t that our prerogative, as artists, to re-invent ourselves every so often?  Robert Ross Parker just seems so, what, yesterday?  I want something fresh, hip, something that bespeaks artistic and editorial prowess, wisdom, and a hint of ‘I don’t really have to try it’s just the way I am’ sexy.  Well, the name has to go, too long for one.  Twitter has a 140 character limit for gosh sake.  We’ve got to trim that sucker down, eliminate all those superfluous vowels.  How about RossPar, BertKer, RoRo or just Ro? 

You have to admire how The Shack flaunts its definite article.  It lifts it above the competition, proves it has no peer.  It’s not just any shack you fool, it’s The Shack.  I’ll steal that, but give it a sophisticated spin.  I’ll use the French “le” for a continental je ne sais quoi.  Perhaps, “Le Park.”  Yes, I like it.  Who is Le Park?  He could be the dashing editor of a sophisticated arts publication, or perhaps an international jewel thief.  It’s hard to say.  Perhaps he’s both.  Does anyone really know Le Park?

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