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The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: L.L. Bean Vs. RadioShack

December 4, 2013

Two commercials: Each created with the goal of drumming up consumer excitement and driving holiday traffic and sales.

In the sixth episode of the RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge, we offer up new spots from L.L. Bean and RadioShack for you to critique. (Toys "R" Us won in week one; Best Buy in week two; Kmart in week three; Kohl's in week four; Sports Authority in week five; and Overstock.com in week six.) At the end of the holiday season, we will put all the winners from the competition up for a vote to determine the merchant with the most to be cheerful about during this season of stress and, hopefully, cheer.

Which is better? You decide.

[Image: L.L.Bean Christmas]

[Image: RadioShack Christmas]


Discussion Questions:

What do you think of L.L. Bean's "Guaranteed to Please" and RadioShack's "Tech The Halls" commercials? Which will do the best job of reinforcing the individual retailer's brand and drive business this holiday season?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Which commercial do you think will be most effective in helping to drive business this holiday season?


This is a tough one, as they both have done a very good job of reenforcing their core brand position and values. With L.L.Bean, there is no question in my mind that they mean what they say in their tag line. Anyone that has purchased from L.L.Bean understands that there is no BS to that statement.

With RadioShack, they also did a good job of blending major brands into a very nice creative and cheerful spot which again re-enforced their core brand values. I think it's a toss up on this one, but since I've been asked to choose one, I would have to give it to L.L.Bean, because of how they have been able to maintain the essence of their brand and the guarantee to be pleased no matter what happens to the product purchased from them, even if a pair of boots wear out.

I don't know how they do it.

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Zel Bianco, President, founder and CEO, Interactive Edge

From the perspective of giving voice to each retailer's core brand strategy, this is the most evenly matched commercial challenge to date.

Each spot accurately and enjoyably conveys and reinforces the respective key brand message - satisfaction and technology. It is a bit of a draw as far as which does the best job.

From a pure creative standpoint and bit more of a storytelling angle, I give the edge to L.L.Bean.

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Jeff Hall, President, Second To None

The use of humor in the L.L.Bean commercial softened its sales approach and made it more enjoyable to watch. RadioShack's clever weaving of technology-based items into a Christmas theme was clever, but had a harder sales approach.

Another interesting difference in approach was L.L.Bean's emphasis on its guarantee of satisfaction, while RadioShack emphasized its price guarantee. Again, L.L.Bean's approach was, IMO, softer. While I would vote for L.L.Bean's doing the best job of reinforcing its brand, I believe RadioShack's ad will drive more business.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

L.L.Bean is the winner, I say. C'mon ... any time you can make a viewer smile and laugh, especially during the holidays, you win.

Nothing wrong with the RadioShack ad, but there's really nothing new there to get excited about.

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Kevin Graff, President, Graff Retail

L.L.Bean emphasizes its customer service and no hassle return policy, while RadioShack pushes the variety of items it offers, along with a price match guarantee. The quality of both spots is good.

Looking beyond the surface message, I see that RadioShack will only match brick and mortar retail offers that are advertised, unlike Best Buy, which will match online prices.

So this round goes to L.L.Bean. This spot stays true to the brand's core story. RadioShack is still looking for a message that communicates where it fits in.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Wow. RadioShack does very little to establish brand identity in their commercial. I was curious and waited to see if they would identify themselves because of this evaluation. In another setting, I would have dismissed the ad early on. "Tech the halls" is clever, but the connection with RadioShack is minimized because of the late identification of RadioShack.

L.L.Bean has it all. The ad immediately establishes brand identity, brand equity, product variety, promotions and a pleasant, amusing as well as engaging execution. And the commercial proved the "Guaranteed to please" tagline. They're the winner in my book.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

Both delivered an appropriate message that stayed true to their current brand upon complete viewing. However, RadioShack is not identified in its commercial until late. Perhaps the big reveal was that these cool things are waiting for shoppers in RadioShack stores now. They might be waiting a bit longer. The humor of L.L.Bean might be able to get a little more attention paid by the TV viewer, so I vote for that one.

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Larry Negrich, Vice President, Marketing, nGage Labs

I am all about storytelling and L.L.Bean tells me a much better story and uses imagery to support its message in a humorous way. L.L.Bean's message reinforces its brand, its value, and also its guarantee of returns regardless of the purchasing channel. L.L.Bean's "Guaranteed to Please" wins hands down!

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

L.L.Bean talks to the customer. It talks to having confidence in the quality of the product and of the company. Nicely done.

RadioShack ultimately talks about Price. It's not always about price. They missed the boat in so many ways.


I see one common thread in this great discussion that is worth noting. Almost every commentator said both commercials were "good" - but almost every commentator also ultimately settled on the L.L.Bean commercial in the end.

Some cited humor or softer sell and others the relative motivation of a 100% Guarantee claim versus the Price Match claim of RadioShack. But I hear a different theme - I hear "L.L.Bean told me something I already believe to be true, that they will give me unqualified service" - and I think that's why most of us leaned to the L.L.Bean commercial. It's not simply the one creative execution, it is the context L.L.Bean has created by emphasizing just one thing since the day the old man opened the doors and then relentlessly living up to it - "You can trust us."

Kudos to RadioShack and their agency on a good spot - and here's to retailers everywhere who appreciate the value of actually standing for something. For my money (and they have gotten quite a bit of it!) L.L.Bean stands shoulder to shoulder with Sam Walton, Marshall Field and the other truly great retailers of our time.

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Ben Ball, Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe

Oh boy, this is a toughy! The L.L.Bean customer is a pretty loyal customer and fits a particular image. Loved that they made the wrapped gifts obvious because that would seem to resonate best with their customer base. They love getting this stuff. But, ouch, the delivery here was just plain flat. No excitement no want to rush out and buy at L.L.Bean. Nope, didn't work for me.

On the other hand, RadioShack just showed us some stuff we could buy and tagged a price match at the end. Since they are in the process of reinventing their image, would have been better had we been able to see who they really are. Not just a store who sells technology, just like many others. Didn't get me out of my chair.

Lee Kent, Brings Retail Executives Together to Meet.Learn.Profit, RetailConnections

L.L.Bean - brilliant. Just a terrific way to get the viewer to interact with the commercial to "guess" what's in the package. Very creative and the very best of the holiday ads so far.

It's unfortunate that RadioShack was up against this one because it was good too - and superior to several of the previous weeks' "winners."


The Christmas commercials for L.L.Bean and RadioShack are both set up to deliver a particular promotional message. L.L.Bean reinforces their satisfaction guarantee and RadioShack with a price matching offer.

The thing that really jumps out at me is the contrast of the people and lifestyles shown. L.L.Bean benefits from creating the impression that they are "the" place to go for these lifestyle and product types, whereas the RadioShack spot seems to suffer a bit because it highlights brands and products that can be had from a wide variety of sources.

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Matt Schmitt, President & Chief Experience Officer, Reflect

As much as I would like to see RadioShack's promotions improve, this didn't make it happen for me. Actually, I did not get the urge to go to L.L.Bean after this commercial.

Actually, the commercials this season have been either weak or repeats from previous seasons.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

L.L.Bean's message wins, appealing directly to gift givers - "guaranteed to please" - great tag line, fun approach, and you believe they will deliver - it is their brand promise. "Tech the Halls" was edgier and also engaging, but you weren't exactly nearly as sure about the retailer brand.

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Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

In my view, the best advertising has a relatable and resonating idea that you'll both remember and feel. Based on this, L.L.Bean wins the day.

I particularly like the human truth about "guessing what it is" (which we all do) and the executional technique making the gifts (from L.L.Bean) obvious to the viewer. Further, its distinctive brand identity will help the spot break through. This combination makes the work far more memorable, in my opinion.

In comparison, the RadioShack spot is a hard-working commercial that reinforces its position as a 'gadget and tech gift' destination, but is in no way memorable. And I'm not sure a 'Price Match Guarantee' will work for an ad that people will not remember.

Kevin Pfuhl, Partner, Strategy, Rain43

L.L.Bean hands down. Voice over and images all build confidence in the message being delivered.

The L.L.Bean ad also built excitement about items consumers wish they did or do and want more of. RadioShack sells phones and tablets. Yep, so does everyone else.

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John Boccuzzi, Jr., Managing Partner, Boccuzzi, LLC

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