JC Penney Bets Big on American Living

Q&A: Boylson Calls Ralph Lauren Brand a 'Billion-Dollar Idea'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It will be tough to avoid American Living.

JC Penney's new brand, created by Polo Ralph Lauren's Global Brand Concepts division, will get a glitzy introduction on the Oscars and is promised to be the biggest marketing initiative in the company's history.
Broad span: Boylson says Living's classic style will attract a wide range of customers.
Broad span: Boylson says Living's classic style will attract a wide range of customers.
So it's a safe bet that Mike Boylson, exec VP-chief marketing officer, will plunk down a big chunk of his annual $460 million budget to support American Living, which he said will represent the "overwhelming majority" of spring advertising and will have a "major presence" in the fall.

The brand, which Mr. Boylson calls a "billion-dollar idea," will be advertised across major networks during prime time, as well as in a wide range of women's, men's and shelter magazines. The commercials will also run in half of U.S. theaters during PG and PG-13 movies. A dedicated microsite, 12 specialty catalogs and in-store efforts, including associate uniforms, shopping bags and new fixtures also will herald the introduction of the brand. The marketing for American Living won't be handled by Penney's agency of record, Saatchi & Saatchi.

Advertising Age: Who is your target customer for American Living?

Mike Boylson: It has a very broad range because it's very classic, traditional styling. Our media targets women 35 to 54, but even in that target you're hitting a lot of different ages and demos. ... We're also marketing pretty aggressively in the Hispanic market. We have a whole Hispanic component, which is primarily broadcast- and magazine-based.

Ad Age: How did you determine the amount of support you would put behind the launch?

Mr. Boylson: We looked at a couple of things. We looked at the immediate financial impact. We think it is a $1 billion idea. We also looked at the halo effect on the total brand. And we looked at [the scope]. It literally goes across 40 different classifications of merchandise and three channels. It became obvious that the only way to do this was in a big way.

Ad Age: Did it ever occur to you to scale back, as the economy started to take a turn?

Mr. Boylson: No, not really. In fact, from the time we first saw the merchandise to the launch the buys kept getting bigger. Now more than ever, customers need a new reason to shop. We need something dramatic to shock the public and create new reasons to shop in our store. ... Half the customers in the U.S. shop JC Penney, yet we're only getting about 7% of share of wallet in the categories of merchandise we sell. There's an enormous opportunity to get a bigger piece of that spend.

Ad Age: What are you doing to ensure that you get a bigger piece of the pie?

Mr. Boylson: One of the ways is through American Living. We're also aggressively opening new stores in high-growth areas. Our new off-mall box prototype has been very successful. And Sephora, the new beauty concept we've been rolling out, is clearly attracting new customers.

Ad Age: What are you doing better than your competitors?

Mr. Boylson: We really think our secret weapon is our people. How we engage our customer with our front-line associates. If you look at Kohl's or Target or Wal-Mart, they don't have a staffing model that allows that.

Ad Age: Have there been major differences in your marketing messages?
Mike Boylson, exec VP-chief marketing officer, JC Penney
Mike Boylson, exec VP-chief marketing officer, JC Penney

Mr. Boylson: Just the fact that the direct channels carried different merchandise assortments [led to] some disconnect. In addition to that, when you have different creative teams working on different projects, no matter how much you collaborate you're going to have a different look and feel.

Ad Age: Global Brand Concepts is handling all of the American Living advertising, so what is Saatchi & Saatchi, your agency of record, working on at this point?

Mr. Boylson: For openers, the whole back-to-school campaign, Mother's Day, Father's Day and Christmas. They've got their hands full. We thought [American Living] was so big and so important that it needed a singular point of view. We really felt that Global Brand Concepts was uniquely positioned to do that. ... They've been working really well together. There's not a lot of pride of authorship there. They've been lending support where they need to.
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