Still Crazy After All These Years

Still Crazy After All These Years


If you are over 30, grew up anywhere in the Northeast or had any exposure to a television (and now YouTube), you may recall that there is a holiday coming up.

Here’s a screaming hint:  "It’s Crrrrr-aaaazy Eddie Christmas-in-August blow-out blitz! Crazy Eddie is going to save you a bllllllizzard of bucks!…You’ve seen the movie, you’ve read the book, you’ve got the T-shirt, now experience it for yourself! Crrrrr-aaaazy Eddie’s Christmas in August TV and Video blow-out Blitz!!"

That ad copy ring any bells? Anyone who saw even one of the original Crazy Eddie television spots featuring the hyped-up, uber-caffeinated voice of radio DJ Jerry Carroll, who famously brought the Crazy Eddie character to life (and in a very nice turtleneck and sports jacket) on the small screen, will now have his voice screaming through their memory.

Quite a brand accomplishment, especially since those electronics store ads haven’t run since 1989, when the Crazy Eddie retail chain shuttered amidst international scandal involving near-mythical violations of federal securities laws. Now, new owners of the Crazy Eddie brand are investing in the hunch that most folks will have long-forgotten the fraud case but not the tag line, "Crrrr-aaazy Eddie! His prices are in-saaaaaane."

"Crazy Eddie represents cool, energy, rock and roll, and a funny, hip approach," said Ike Gemal, Vice President of Magic Investments, a New York-based family business which purchased liscensing rights to Crazy Eddie late in ’08 for what he says was "about $50,000."

The Gemal family’s own approach to making the brand work in the CE retail space in 2009 and beyond is an energized blend of e-tailing, social media networking, marketing, goods-sourcing and a little brick-and-mortar too.  Magic Investments has already put up a website,, offering competitive price points on a variety of name-brand CE products, from iPod Nanos and Blackberry smartphones to Sharp flatpanels and Audiovox GPS systems.  But the family isn’t actually involved in warehousing or shipping those offerings right now.

"We’re contracting out the e-tailing," said Gemal. "A third party has the inventory.  You have to take shortcuts in the world today, much like Amazon or Toys R Us, you work the brand and contract out the services for the most part…I don’t like business plans that involve sales and margins. I like the creative business plans that have organic growth involved.  That’s what we’re looking for."

Part of that creative plan involves launching a social media campaign early this fall, run by Ike’s Gen-Y brother, Adam, which will invite avid Facebook, Twitter and YouTube users to "Become the Next Crazy Eddie" by creating and uploading their own audition videos.  

Generating a new round of buzz could be just what the Gemals need to fuel other ventures, like giving lines of inexpensive "but quality" CE accessories the Crazy Eddie name. Ike Gemal says they’re currently looking to create a branded 79 to 99-cent earbud which could be available nationwide at convenience stores like 7-11 or Wawa (the family is talking with both, along with major box stores like Wal-Mart and Target). They plan to expand the website dramatically in the coming year as well, offering rock-bottom deals on limited-supply CE products and cross-promotions with the one-special-a-day specialist,  Down the road, the family is considering opening a handful of actual Crazy Eddie stores, though their focus would be small, express-format stores mainly showing floor samples of products but encouraging customers to use the website.

"We don’t have millions to operate retail operations," said Gemal. "But if we take it from a branding or internet perspective, that could be something.  If it wasn’t for the power of the brand, I wouldn’t even venture to enter the retail landscape."  

Evaluating the retail-power of long-dormant brand-names can be a complicated science. Rob Frankel, national branding consultant ( and author of "The Revenge of Brand X" says he’s seen a number of 20-year-old brands exhumed in recent years, to varying degrees of success.  The trick, he says, is to fulfill the successful brand’s original promise.

"Crazy Eddie never attached his brand literally to a piece of hardware. In the consumer’s mind, you’d always go to Crazy Eddie for a good price. He let the product brands do their own quality pitch," said Frankel, who hypothesizes that the Gemal family might have more luck with e-tailing than with "Crazy Eddie" lines of goods, though he’s convinced the retail brand recognition is still incredibly strong. "I think Crazy Eddie is the Nathan’s Hotdogs of retail. Everybody loves then and remembers them."

Jerry Carrol, the famed brand spokesman, is equally convinced of the enduring brand appeal.  He’s even been asked, though he demurely declines each time, to perform as Crazy Eddie at bah mitzvahs for kids who were born long after his commercials went off the air.

"I have a sense of how powerful that brand still is to a degree, absolutely," he said. "I can go out anytime and someone will still say, "Aren’t you…?"  I just say, ‘That’s my brother.’  It happens to me all the time."