Then, last night, the retailer announced the brand that emerged
as tops in the poll -- the St. John's Bay women's line that was one
of the casualties of former CEO Ron Johnson's tenure -- would be
returning. At the time the women's line was shuttered in favor of
younger brands like Betseyville and Joe Fresh, the house brand
brought in more than a billion dollars in sales annually. "We heard
you. St. John's Bay is back! What will you snag first, pants or
shirts?" the brand posted on Facebook. JC Penney's social-media
managers have also been working overtime, as judged by the volume
of direct replies to consumers on posts that have thousands of
Another subtle change worth noting: JCP, the moniker created and
championed by Mr. Johnson, also seems to be falling out of favor.
The apology ad ends with the retailer's full name, JCPenney, something
that had been missing from much of the company's recent
communications, including the prior campaign, "Yours Truly," which
launched during the Oscars. Under Mr. Johnson's direction, the
brand had even abandoned its Facebook.com/jcpenney page in favor of
Consumers and industry insiders are mixed on whether the
retailer's latest efforts are a savvy bit of marketing for a
troubled company or destined to cause even more damage.
On Facebook, a number of customers are responding positively to
the new changes and promising to come back and give JC Penney a
shot. "This is it folks. … JCP needs US! Now let's do our
part and shop," wrote Victoria. Added Ruth, "When St. John's Bay
went so did my husband and myself. Hooray, we'll be back. Thanks
for listening to your regulars."
A smaller contingent is bemoaning the return of coupons and
"older" brands, however. "Loved the new JCP. And I was your new
target market. You finally brought in youthful clothes that fit and
I never had to remember to bring in a coupon. Guess I'll have to go
back to my other stores," wrote Beth.
Among marketers, opinions are just as split. Some commenters on
anearlier AdAge.com story pointed out the ad only
draws more attention to the brand's missteps, while at the same
time making the brand's newer fans feel undervalued.
But Mike Duda, managing partner at Consigliere Brand Capital,
applauded JC Penney's new approach. "It's a smart thing to do; it
would not be a smart thing to go deep on," he said. "It's telling
consumers we're hitting the reset button, and they're signaling
change to their own organization -- people that have been beaten up
during the [former CEO Ron] Johnson regime. It's the message that
it's over. Sometimes you do advertising to speak to your own
employees. As much as they're saying it to the consumer, I would
think it would also go over well with corporate, people in the
stores, vendors and people in the supply chain they rely on."