I've noticed on TV and in print recently that Radio Shack is apparently trying to change their name and their image, playing up that their "friends call us 'The Shack.'" It is certainly a wise idea to move the company into the 21st century; no one is going to equate cutting edge technology with a store that has "Radio" in its name. But when they say "The Shack," I think of a place on the beach where someone is cooking up burgers, hot dogs and ribs. Why not play off the fact that they're not just about radios anymore and start calling themselves Tech Shack or something like that?
They are certainly not the first company or product to change its name to get in tune with the times. Kentucky Fried Chicken starting calling itself KFC some years ago, when "fried" became a bad word. Oh, we older folks still know what the F stands for, but there's most of a generation that has grown up never hearing the word associated with the Colonel's chicken and may well think it stands for Finest, Fresh or Finger-Lickin'.
Similarly, does any young visitor to fast-food Jack's know that it used to be called Jack in the Box?
One of my favorite product name changes was the breakfast cereal currently known as Golden Crisp. Way back in the 1950s, it was introduced as Sugar Crisp and it took its place on the shelves with Sugar Pops, Sugar Frosted Flakes, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Jets and probably a few more that I don't remember. When just plain Sugar wasn't enough, they changed the name to Super Sugar Crisp. (Sugar Bear, the cartoon character on the box and in the commercials, donned a Superman-like costume to celebrate.)
But them "sugar" became a bad word, while honey became the nutritious sweetness of choice and we got Honey Crisp (and perhaps even Super Honey Crisp). Up and down the cereal aisle, Sugar Pops became Corn Pops and Sugar Smacks became Honey Smacks, while Frosted Flakes and Jets just dropped the word completely.
Meanwhile, Honey Crisp became Super Crisp, Super Golden Crisp and finally Golden Crisp. I doubt that the sugar content has changed much in all these years; according to a 2008 Consumer Reports report it and Honey Smacks have the highest sugar content of all cereals, more than 50% by weight! (No wonder they taste so good!)
In the comic book business, Timely Comics of the 1940s became Atlas Comics in the 50s and finally found a brand name that would endure with Marvel Comics in the 60s. DC Comics, although known in the trade by that name for almost all of its existence, started as National Allied Publications and later National Comics. In an apparent attempt to hide what it was they published, they became National Periodical Publications in the 50s and 60s. But they finally acknowledged their source of income in the 70s when the name was officially changed to what everyone had been calling it all along. MLJ Comics, on the other hand, which began publishing superhero comics and the like, realized where its bread was buttered quickly and changed their name to Archie Comics in 1946, and has remained the same since.
I suppose we'll have to wait a few years to see if "The Shack" catches on as a name. Meantime, I expect I will hear from a few of you readers about other companies and products that have changed their names, for good or bad.