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Still scratching my head over JCPenney’s rebrand

Posted on Categories Branding, StrategyTags

I can’t help but wonder about the new JCPenney brand strategy. When the company hired Ron Johnson last year I was sure he was brought onboard to share how he helped Target transform their brand into a “cool” place to shop. Or perhaps he was recruited by this well-loved retailer to shed light on how he positively impacted the Apple retail shopping experience. Although the new advertising for JCPenney has been intriguing, it seems to be making promises that do not match the shopping experience.

In a Fast Company article earlier this year “What JCPenney Took From Apple And Gap,” Ron Johnson outlined his four-step strategy for marketing the ‰”new‰” JCPenney.

1. It‰’s More than Just A Marketing Change

2. The Experience IS The Brand

3. You Must Manage The Company You Keep

4. It Isn‰’t Just A Logo Change

Johnson states that he clearly understands that transforming a brand doesn‰’t start on the surface with communication. I totally agree. But I have seen JCPenney‰’s new communications and I have visited the stores. There is a total disconnect between the experiential change that is promised in the advertising and what the stores are like today. If Johnson believes, as stated, that the experience is the brand, then I am confused by what he thinks the brand is or even where he envisions taking this brand.

Mr. Johnson talks about reenergizing the brand by creating relationships with icons like Martha Stewart. Hasn‰’t she already sold her products at Kmart, Macy‰’s and Michaels? What‰’s new or exciting about this? In fact, Macy‰’s is in the process of trying to legally block the association between JCPenney and Martha.

He also states that this transformation is not all about a logo change. Well, the logo is definitely different ‰- but when will the stores actually ‰”be‰” different?

I understand that an endeavor such as this is a long-term process that requires considerable planning and investment. But if the internal changes to the stores were not already well underway when the advertising program broke and the in-store experience does not match the promise, then perhaps they have jumped the gun on promoting this ‰”new‰” brand. They should have teased us with ‰”guess what‰’s coming!‰” Or at least they could have told us that this is ‰”a work in progress.‰” Or maybe I just missed that point somewhere.

If this retailer continues to advertise and ask us to go back again and retry the ‰”new‰” JCPenney when they actually have something different to show, they will encounter a more skeptical audience. Much like the little boy who cried, ‰”wolf.‰”

Perception is reality. This is my perception. What‰’s yours?


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