The Rise of Horny Marketing

RadioShack is taking a controversial approach to its social media marketing. It’s capturing attention. But will the new approach grow sales?


“If you find a squirter, marry her.”

RadioShack’s Twitter

RadioShack getting horny with its marketing is kind of like walking in on your grandparents having sex, and yet here we are, standing in the doorway, getting a different view of Pappy than we ever thought we’d see.

If you haven’t been paying attention over the past few weeks, the century-old electronics store about which most of us would say, “Wait. They’re still a thing?” has captured headlines with its new direction in social media.

Not only has the twice-bankrupt chain talked about female ejaculate, they’ve insinuated they’ve defiled an Applebee’s bathroom, dropped a few F-bombs and thrown out more sexual inuendo than a Family Guy episode.

It’s all kind of … icky. Yet people are talking about it, and if you’re a bricks-and-mortar store that became largely irrelevant before the second Bush administration, you’re most definitely operating under the tried-and-true theory that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.


A RadioShack Review

RadioShack has roughly 400 independently owned retail stores nationwide, a precipitous drop from the 5,200 it claimed in 2014. But that’s not where it’s betting its future. It now sells crypto, because if you’re going to be talking about squirting on Twitter, why not?

The company’s chief marketing officer (as of this writing, anyway) is a dude by the name of Abel Czupor, whose LinkedIn profile says he joined the company in April. He also says he’s …

Czupor has been spending much of his time lately defending RadioShack’s eye-catching approach to social media, thanking The Washington Post, for example, for its coverage by tweeting “Not everyone may agree with our strategy — but it works.”

Which remains to be seen. Too often these days, CMO’s equate attention with sales, and RadioShack has struggled to make those in the 21st century.

The company exited its second bankruptcy in 2018 owned by General Wireless Operations and then was purchased in 2020 by private equity firm Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV). This makes tracking its revenue or profitability a challenge, and the company itself certainly isn’t sharing the details.

It is, however, disputing claims that its own cryptocurrency, dubbed $RADIO is a scam.

“Those criticisms are completely false,” the company said of $Radio, which is currently worth less than a penny.


‘So-Called Bros’

So what the heck is going on here?

Czupor has said he has a team of people coming up with gems such as this for its Twitter account.

“Woke up feeling roughhhhh but remembered i put a strippers kid through college last night. We all good.”

Which means they’re apparently assembling this team from the finest sixth-grade remedial English classrooms this country has to offer.

Yet people are paying attention — at least, according to Czupor.

“Thirty million people have clicked on our profile, and the follower count is up about 170,000-ish since we started,” he said in a recent article, which is a more telling statement about America’s social media culture than RadioShack.

Czupor doesn’t hide the fact that he’s operating under the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” philosophy, and he has an interesting take on what he thinks the average consumer who might possibly shop at RadioShack or buy $RADIO talks about.

“We are just basically posting the kinds of things that some people will be talking about in private with their friends,” he said, adding that the squirting tweet took off because “This is something so-called bros would be talking about with each other, but nobody would be saying this publicly — especially not a brand.”

Which is precisely the point. Other brands don’t do it because their social media teams aren’t desperate, and even if they are, they’re not sophomores. This isn’t to suggest Twitter is a place to be stodgy. It’s not. Yet the tone needs to reflect the brand. And in this case, if you were to ask 100 average American consumers what comes to mind when they hear “RadioShack,” what do you think the breakdown would be between people who would say “An electronics store” vs. those who would say “a hip place to buy crypto?”

While RadioShack is certainly the most, shall we say, aggressive of major brands in having its social media tone so poorly match its brand image, it’s not alone. And it’s not the only brand exhibiting extreme horniness either.


Candy, Cookies & Burgers

Take, for example, Snickers. How good is Snickers? Well, very good, according to just about any standard you want to measure it against. The Mars Inc. candy bar is not only the No. 1 best-selling candy bar in the United States, it’s the No. 1 best-selling candy bar in the world. Unlike RadioShack, it doesn’t need to use the social media equivalent of 1980s shock jocks to get noticed in an attempt to improve its position.

Yet there it was in April, posting a photo of its iconic candy bar with a tweet that read …

“Good new, contrary to what’s trending on Twitter… THE VEINS REMAIN!”

Snickers tweet

The reference, to be blunt, is to the fact that the texture of a Snickers bar could, maybe if you squinted and the lighting was just right, look like a penis, and there had been rumors its “veined” surface soon would become flat and smooth and decidedly unpenislike.

Nutter Butter, owned by the largest snack company in the world, jumped into the sexualization of food in June with this award-winner:

“N is for the way you nut at me.”

Nutter Butter tweet

That, of course, is a reference to male ejaculation being locker-room referred to as “nutting.”

So as you can see, RadioShack has an established model to follow in its sophomoric effort to gain attention — and, oh yeah, maybe sales.

Yet it isn’t just mismatched brand/sexualization that is the problem. Perhaps the original eye-catching social media account for a brand is Wendy’s. The hamburger chain has a safe-for-work hilarious Twitter account.

Its tried-and-true tactic is to wait for one of the industry leaders to tweet … and then eviscerate them. For example, in response to this McDonald’s tweet …

“Today we’ve announced that by mid-2018, all Quarter Pounder burgers at the majority of our restaurants will be cooked with fresh beef.”

McDonald’s tweet, March 2017

… it responded less than three hours later with …

“@McDonalds So you’ll still use frozen beef in MOST of your burgers in ALL of your restaurants? Asking for a friend.”

Wendy’s tweet

And when McDonald’s oopsied a post by clicking “send” a bit too early with …

“Black Friday **** Need copy and link****”

McDonald’s Tweet, Nov. 24, 2017

… Wendy’s clapped back with …

“When the tweets are as broken as the ice cream machine.”

Wendy’s tweet

Wendy’s social media team is amazing. The problem is that the rest of the chain is not.

Wendy’s has fallen through the decades from third in the fast-food rankings behind only McDonald’s and Burger King, to fifth behind McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell (BK is now seventh, after Dunkin’). While its tweets are with-it, hip and cool, its restaurants and other marketing is … not.

It’s logo alone — of a red-headed Wendy who has changed little with the times — does nothing to say “with-it, hip and cool.” It screams “1950’s.”


Will It Work?

What RadioShack is doing is at least — and perhaps at most — trying. CMO Czupor claims the company has seen huge increases in sales through its webstore. Place bets on that being huge percentage increases, which are far different from huge dollar increases. Increasing sales from $1 to $2 is a 100% jump, after all.

Czupor says brick-and-mortar sales will follow.

“We want the franchise owners to get people to go to the stores because the brand and the name of the brand is cool.”

Abel Czupor, Input Mag article

It’s good to want. Wendy’s wants that too. It didn’t work for them. I’m betting it won’t work for RadioShack either.

John Agliata is a marketing professional with more than 30 years of communications experience. Reach him at johnagliata@gmail.com or (352) 226-5852.

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