RadioShack takes small brand from techies to masses

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When RadioShack Corp. discovered a company named Mobility Electronics last year, the small power-supply outfit was selling a unique charger for mobile devices called iGo that had great techie appeal, but limited distribution. With the retailer's help in marketing and product development, iGo is now attracting general consumers who rely on more and more mobile products.

"IGo has a unique following as the first of the universal power supplies, and it was something everyone had been asking for, but it was an insider product," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group. Road warriors who often lug PCs, phones and PDAs on trips have been singing the praises of iGo's Juice product since the 2003 holiday season.

But thanks to a concerted effort by Radio Shack, it's almost sure to be a hot seller this holiday season among mainstream consumers snatching up MP3 players and digital cameras that require multiple power supplies. A September Roper Public Affairs study commissioned by RadioShack found consumer households have an average of 5.5 adapters for their mobile technologies and 55% said not being able to find the right charger when they need it is stressful.

The retailer worked with Mobility to design, create packaging, mass produce and handle marketing materials from instruction booklets to advertising and PR. It also helped the company develop products, such as iGo-everywhere power lines, "iTips" smart connectors, which are small tips for different mobile devices, and "iGo ice" for wall power adaptation.

RadioShack is running iGo ads in airports and magazines with a focus on business travelers, said Jim McDonald, RadioShack chief brand officer. TV ads will follow in the early part of next year, with RadioShack widening its target to include busy families by mid-year. Products such as a 90-watt device and more iTips for more mobile products are also on deck.

RadioShack said this is the first time the company has reaped the benefits of building a category. "It's the first example of where we're not only helping make a market for technology, but also getting a piece of the action," said Charles Hodges, RadioShack director-media relations. "RadioShack is moving beyond the merchandising scenario of `what do you have for me to sell?' "

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