jcpenney brand relaunch - mikaela yeager

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    Founded in 1902, JCPenney Co. Inc. is one of the nations largest apparel and home furnishing retailers. Along with merchandise, the companys more than 1,000 department stores provide customers with services such as beauty salons, optical departments, portrait photography studios, in-home custom decorating sessions, and beauty products from its store-within-a-store partner, Sephora.


    Like all businesses aiming to make a profit, JCPenney faced the challenge of meeting sales numbers during the Great Recession that shook the U.S. economy from late-2007mid-2009. However, unlike its competitors, JCPenney did not take appropriate action and found itself struggling to keep its head above water.

    In fall 2011, JCPenney hired retail savant Ron Johnson as its new CEO in hopes he would breathe new life into the stagnant brick-and-mortar department store and achieve similar levels of success as he did for his predecessors, Target and Apple. But Johnsons tenure at the top of JCPenney was anything but successful. Within 16 months under his leadership, the companys stock had plummeted nearly 50 percent, 19,000 employees had lost their jobs, and sales had fallen by more than 25 percentan almost unheard of slide for a major retailer (D Magazine, 2013). A combination of mistakes on Johnsons end led to this downward spiral.

    First, Johnson moved too quickly. By early 2012, JCPenneys implemented the new CEOs idea to offer fair and square pricing, in which original prices started at least 40 percent lower to begin with, to replace the fake prices the company used for decades (Tuttle, 2013). But by listing realistic prices, discontinuing coupons and banishing the words sales and clearance from its ad campaigns and in-store displays, Johnson left customers feeling stripped of receiving

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    the deals theyd long cherished and eventually drove them away. Perhaps the sizable collapse in sales could have been prevented had Johnson dedicated some time to understanding JCPenneys long-standing customers who are drawn to price markdowns and get a thrill out of bargain shopping

    On top of failing to acknowledge the preferences of JCPenney shoppers, Johnson also misread the companys brand as a whole. His vision featured trendier brands, coffee and juice bars and a more intimate boutique-like shopping experience to replace their standard rows of overcrowded clothing racks. He quickly revamped the home goods sections by forming partnerships between JCPenney and higher-end home dcor retailers like Martha Stewart and Michael Graves and fashionable apparel and accessories from designers like Joe Fresh and Nanette Lepore.

    However, reverting back to traditional JCPenney customerslower- and middle-income families that are accustomed to shopping for discountsmade the idea of saturating stores with boutiques that didnt want their brands diluted by discount pricing even more challenging to carry out, and sales continued to plummet.

    In the midst of the chaos, Johnson spearheaded a brand refresh that included a new logo and ad campaign that reflected his new fair and square pricing strategy. The new logo came just one year after JCPenney remodeled its look under Mike Ullman, JCPenneys former CEO of seven years.

    The fair and square TV ads were colorful and reminiscent of Target, with a touch of Apple whimsicality. One ad featured a dog jumping through a hula-hoop held up by a cute little girl. A message streamed across the screen that said: "No more jumping through hoops. No coupon clipping. No door busting. Just great prices from the start. Thats fair and square. A series of

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    TV ads starring comedian and newly named JCPenney spokeswoman Ellen DeGeneres also aired during the 2012 Oscars.

    Despite his attempts, Johnsons strategies werent working, and by the time he caught on and accepted that JCPenneys customers were not who he wanted them to be (more upscale, Apple consumers who dont expect discounts), it was too late to make a turnaround. The JCPenney identity was in a state of turmoil. Even after reintroducing markdowns, sales continued to fall, and Johnson was ousted in April 2013. Ullman returned as interim CEO, and the company began to bring back its old-fashioned pricing strategy.


    Over the last two years, JCPenney has been working to rebuild its identity and regain momentum in the marketplace, but the progress is slow-coming. While the company restored sales growth last year, its stock remains down more than 71 percent from when Johnson took the helm in 2011 (Townsend, 2015). Additionally, at the start of 2014, JCPenney announced 33 store closings, leading to the loss of about 2,000 jobs. As of November, the company had 1,095 department stores, down slightly from past years (Hess & McIntyre, 2014).

    One of the first steps JCPenney took was apologizing to consumers for the dismay of the last year-and-a-half via a TV spot that aired around Mothers Day 2013. Next, the company restoredin full forceits frequent sales, discounts and coupons; it brought back many of the traditional JCPenney clothing brands Johnson dumped; and it started rebuilding its home business by offering more lower-priced items and in-house brands.

    Another almost instantaneous change was reinstating the pre-Ron Johnson era logo in an attempt to signal its return to the company's traditional values and reassure shoppers its safe to come back (Rashall, 2013). (See display of JCPenneys recent logo evolution on the following page) Perhaps the main message JCPenney is aiming to get across is that its brand has evolved in recent years, but it still holds on tightly to the core of its 113-year-old identity.

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    Additionally, JCPenney has relinquished a number of taglines over the years, including: "It's All Inside," "Every Day Matters," "New look. New day. Who knew!" and "We make it affordable. You make it yours."

    The current tagline, When it fits, you feel it, went into effect in February 2014 and triggered a series of TV spots, many of which premiered during major broadcast events like the Winter Olympics and the Oscars. From a branding perspective, our new tagline celebrates the emotion that comes from finding the perfect fit, underscoring our commitment to deliver the sizes, brands, styles and prices that fit the real life needs of our customers, said a JCPenney spokesperson (Mahoney, 2014). Many of the ads also feature exclusive discounts and sales that stream across the television screen.

    2012 Redesigned under

    Ron Johnson to reflect fair and square pricing


    20112012 Bringing the red

    square back


    2013Present Renews old logo

    2013Present: Social Media

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    More recently, the When it fits you feel it TV spots have heavily targeted women, ages 2545. They are upbeat, free-spirited and aim to empower women and self-expression.

    Back-to-School Ad, July 2014

    JCP Home Collections Ad, March 2014

    Trend Anthem Ad March 2015

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    JCPenney is also focusing more on digital, social, mobile and paid search advertising. The companys 2014 holiday campaign Just Got Jingled, which featured videos of customers receiving surprise gifts from strangers in stores, generated 3 million views on Twitter. Nine out of 10 impressions were unpaid, organic tweets viewed by users without the promoted tag, so the total cost for the campaign was a mere $120,000, which equates to just 4 cents per ad (Sloane, 2015).

    In spring 2014, JCPenney Optical wanted to increase its in-store sales and brand awareness. To achieve this, the brand ran Lightbox Ads and YouTube TrueView ads across the Google Display Network to reach a broad yet targeted audience. To help boost its mobile presence, it adjusted bids to ensure that ads were prominently featured on mobile devices. All in all, its efforts resulted in an 830 percent increase in online exposure and a 285 percent rise in conversions (THINK Newsletter, 2014).

    Last July, JCPenney targeted kids and their moms in a multi-pronged back-to-school campaign. It kicked off with two television spots, Stand Out and My Fit, as well as a Hispanic marketing spot apart from an interactive digital campaign on its online microsite called Express Yourselfie and a campaign targeting the moms called Thats My Kid. The Express Yourselfie allowed users to create customized emojis from uploading their personal selfies. They could pick customized accessories, hairstyles, and facial expressions to match their own personal style. After creating their emoji, users could enter a sweepstakes to instantly win an e-gift card and were then re-directed to shopping suggestions through JCPenney based on their personal style (Dua, 2014).

    JCPenney currently has 4.7 million followers on Facebook (JCPenney Facebook page, 2015) and 374,000 followers on Twitter (JCPenney Twitter page, 2015). The brand utilizes these pages daily to communicate important information about the company, new brands and services, trends, new marketing campaigns, and contests. With Mothers Day around the corner, the company is currently

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    pushing its # IGotItFromMyMama and # JCPSketchMe hashtags, which encourages followers to tag a photo of themselves with their mothers and tell how their looks were influenced by them. JCPenney will then randomly select photos to sketch and include in its new spring lookbook.

    JCPenney is also driving growth with the launch of its Find It, Keep It iPhone app in