Escaping the ghost of tech’s past

As it debuts a new Scrooge-inspired Christmas campaign, the head of marketing at The Source talks about the retailer's attempts to shake off its RadioShack baggage.

The Source is stepping up its efforts to escape its self-proclaimed tech geek roots, which includes new ad creative and changes at the store level to make the brand more of an appealing destination.

The new ads, by Juniper Park, continue with a creative platform that the retailer established in the spring where, upon catching a glimpse of some new cool piece of tech, a character declares “I want that,” prompting a member of The Source sales team to appear seemingly from nowhere to fulfill that need. For the holidays, The Source has Ebeneezer Scrooge eyeing, of all things, a pair of wireless Beats by Dre headphones. As with the previous spots, the holiday ads will appear as televised spots and online pre-roll. PHD handled the media buy.

Ron Craig, VP of marketing at The Source, says positioning the “I want that” tag, first introduced two years ago, at the centre of its messaging, reflects the retailer’s efforts to establish itself as a place to get the best brands. The platform is also built around promoting a single tech product, part of the store’s efforts to build its messaging around exclusives from brand including Beats, Monster and Marley.

“It’s an emotional connection, because tech and consumer electronics are an adult candy store these days, so we solve that desire for them,” he says. “The [retail tech] space is under pressure from internet vendors, but also from an overall lack of innovation [at the bricks-and-mortar level]. Our vendors are realizing we are a growth opportunity as we get traction, so we are getting more attention and they are making more exclusives available.”

What’s more, Craig says The Source has been fighting an identity crisis over the last few years. The company  began in 1970 as the Canadian branch of U.S. store RadioShack. The branding was changed to The Source by Circuit City in 2005 after an acquisition the previous year, which was shortened to The Source in 2009 when Circuit City went bankrupt and the chain was purchased by Bell Media.

Craig says besides the name changes, the retailer has struggled with establishing its identity because of its RadioShack baggage as “your dad’s electronic store,” a place to get “add-ons” to tech people already owned, instead of being a total solution.

Shedding the image of “your dad’s electronic store” means appealing to a younger, more female-skewed demographic, especially as tech becomes less niche and more of an everyday product. Craig says that is happening on all fronts, from the “I want that” ad message to more social media activity to changes at the store level, creating an overall more youthful and welcoming feel for the brand.

To compete with online retailers like Amazon and make the space more inviting, The Source is emphasizing the in-store environment as a chance to get a hands-on trial on products that are better suited to its smaller locations, like headphones, mobile devices, streaming audio, laptops and, looking to the future, wearable tech. 

This month, The Source is opening a retail kiosk at Pearson International Airport that invites consumers in to test the tech before they buy it. In February, The Source will be bringing that interactive plan to more of its locations when it tests a new layout at a prototype store in Barrie, ON, shedding the shelves and gondolas to open up more space for products. It is also testing ways to have more resources on-site that will allow The Source to do while-you-wait product repairs, instead of sending products away.