Welcome back once again to the wily world of advertising and branding. In this magical place, companies are made or broken by the choices they make, and oh, how I love to watch the carnage unfold (oh yes, I’m a baaad man). Who doesn’t like to see a company boldly switch its image one day to have its core consumers reject it the next, often due to the most insignificant of changes? (Almost a year ago from today, I wrote a piece about the NBCUniversal rebrand, which was… universally anonymous.) J.C. Penney, now known as jcpenney, decided it needed to tempt fate by entering into the fray. To paraphrase, ever since Ron Johnson (of Apple retail store fame) joined jcpenney as CEO in 2011, the retailer has been looking to revitalize its business. To further bolster its efforts, jcpenney hired Michael Francis (formerly accountable for Target’s branding and marketing) as its new president. The pieces were in place, and as of February 1, the entire business structure has been turned upside down.
How does a company reposition itself to be the most interesting retailer of 2012? Sure, a brand spanking new logo is a great start (and if you couldn’t tell, it’s just slightly patriotic). Oh, and a new pricing structure (slashing everyday prices by up to 40%, with fewer crazy sales), a new spokesperson, an investment in Martha Stewart Omnimedia and a new designer partnership with Nanette Lepore look great. All these things sound jcpenney-riffic—and, well, they kind of are. In what I would call a fairly brilliant advertising campaign, the most recent television commercial released by jcpenney (seen above), while annoying to many, does its job at getting your attention, whether you want to or not. I personally enjoyed the little mice with the coupons.
In a nutshell, jcpenney is taking a brave leap in their internal re-engineering. The retailer is over 100 years old; that’s a long time, especially in a world where many recognizable names are going the way of the dinosaur. But this aforementioned bravery isn’t unfounded—and on paper, it places the retailer in direct competition with many of today’s most successful retailers. For what this designer’s opinion is worth, I like the general direction and will be intrigued to see how the future plays out.
Does jcpenney’s shiny new coat of paint make you want to throw down some money for a hardcore shopping extravaganza? Or do you not care? Here’s some homework, shopaholics: go visit, and report back. Or not.