JC Penney Begins Marketing Team Rebuild With Kraft's Debra Berman

Retailer Hasn't Had a Permanent Marketing Leader for More Than a Year

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JC Penney has named Debra Berman as senior VP-brand strategy. Landing Kraft Foods Group's VP-marketing and engagement is something of a coup for the much-maligned retailer, which has seen its senior marketing ranks badly depleted in the last year.

Debra Berman
Debra Berman

The company has been courting Ms. Berman, who spent time in its Plano, Texas headquarters last week, according to two people close to the company. Those people said Ms. Berman's appointment was announced internally Monday. She is expected to relocate to Texas from the Chicago area.

Ms. Berman, an Ad Age Media Maven, has an impressive resume, including stints on the client side and agency side. Until January, she served as de facto CMO for the newly formed Kraft Foods, overseeing media and marketing strategy for brands that spend in excess of $500 million globally on advertising. The marketing chief role was given to Deanie Elsner.

She joined Kraft in 2009 to take on the role of senior director-global planning and strategy. In that role, she completed more than 55 new brand strategies and was responsible for bringing more brand work and planning in-house, taking some responsibility away from creative agencies. She also spent time at Saatchi & Saatchi and DDB, where she oversaw planning for all Clorox brands.

The Baltimore native earned her MBA from The Anderson School of Management at University of California, Los Angeles. She has an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Berman will need to hit the ground running, given most major retailers are in the throes of planning and shooting their holiday campaigns.

JC Penney has been without a permanent marketing leader since Michael Francis left the president role 13 months ago. Mr. Francis oversaw marketing, merchandising and product development, but never named a CMO. The last JC Penney marketing chief was Mike Boylson, who retired two years ago.

Former Aflac CMO Jeff Herbert has been advising the retailer on marketing on an interim basis, and wraps up his contract this month. Meanwhile, Sergio Zyman -- who was instrumental in hiring Y&R to help with JC Penney's turnaround efforts -- remains a consultant.

JC Penney did not respond to requests for comment. Attempts to reach Ms. Berman were unsuccessful. A Kraft Foods Group spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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