Back in June of last year as I became aware of what was going on inside J.C. Penney headquarters I penned JC Penney’s Epic Rebranding Fail. I heard from some in the marketing world who thought my use of the word “epic” was too harsh. My response to them at the time was along the lines of “perhaps, but we just don’t yet, do we?”
And at that time I didn’t know if the rebrand campaign that ill-fated CEO Ron Johnson was undertaking would in fact be classified as epic when the dust settled.
Well, today, I can tell you from where I sit the rebranding campaign does not appear to have been an epic failure. At least not from what I’ve seen coming from JCP headquarters.
In case you missed this:
That of course was J.C. Penney’s latest television commercial which all but comes out and says “we screwed up, please forgive us.”
Forbes contributor Clare O’Connor in her May 1st column wrote how “J.C. Penney is going on the offensive, apologizing to shoppers alienated by Johnson’s controversial store revamps.” Also on May 1st, Will Burns penned With New Ad, J.C. Penney Plays The Card It Can Only Play Once. Will’s title is spot on as surely such a mea culpa campaign can only be used once. So it better work.
And I think it will.
Which brings me to Laura’ Heller’s column on May 2nd - J.C. Penney Is Listening, And Getting A Huge Response. In her article Laura writes of the increasing popularity of J.C. Penney’s Facebook page and in particular their “We’re Listening” post.
From The Man Himself
James Cash Penney once said “I believe in trusting men, not only once but twice – in giving a failure another chance.”
I wonder how the man himself would view this most recent rebrand and if he himself would label it as an epic failure and if he would in fact trust those who made the decision in the first place and thereby give them another chance to right their wrong?
Of course we will never know how he would’ve responded but I would imagine he would’ve been of the mindset that at the end of the day the consumer will tells us if we were right or not.
And since we live in an extraordinarily forgiving society and where our world is transparency on steroids – I believe this mea culpa will ultimately work in J.C. Penney’s favor.
Now of course there are provisos to this.
- They must, MUST stay the course. Discounts and coupons are back and they need to stay that way. The people have spoken. Yes, you are listening JCP. Now keep listening.
- Maintain complete and open transparency. You got down on your knees and asked for mercy from the court of public opinion. Fine. But once you’re off your knees, don’t forget where you came from.
- Don’t overthink this. If you have a subpar quarter now and then, don’t fall into the trap of running to your ad agency with another rebrand edict at the top of your To Do List.
At the end of the day no one has a crystal ball of course. No one can predict the future. All we can do is learn from our past.
Clearly J.C. Penney is trying to do just that.
Now, we wait and see if they learned anything.
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