Friday, May 3, 2013

New (Old) JCPenney’s First Ad

It's been just four weeks since Ron Johnson clocked out as CEO of JCP; his promise to breathe new life into a retailer poised to celebrate its centennial + 10 fell short of a frantic board's expectations.

A Call for Change

Time has a way of marching forward, doesn’t it? Yesterday’s retail stroller riders are now pushing strollers of their own down the aisles – and no one wants to shop where mom and dad shop.

For far too many years JCPenney, (along with Sears and, to a lesser extent, Macy's), allowed themselves to age less than gracefully; falling out of vogue with what is now a new class of consumers.

But then JCP (Johnson) decided to make a bold move. JCP found the fountain of youth.
Suddenly, you were squinting at bright, energetic colors. You were energized by delightful, active imagery set in motion against a background of happy ditties you couldn’t get out of your head. In case you missed the year that was:

That felt good, didn’t it?

As a twenty-something retail aficionado I can tell you the new ads grabbed my attention. After a few they even moved JCP back to the shortlist for my patronage. But it takes a while to warm up to someone; to break old habits and start anew. And while my peers and I were not yet sold, a handful of outspoken (aka crotchety) legacy (aka geezer) JCP loyalists were sold on hating the new.

And sales took a tumble…

A (Re)Call for Change

Panicked to stop the bleeding, the JCP board brought back the very same leadership Johnson was meant to replace. And with the new (old) regime (back) at the helm, we received this 30-second commerci-apology.

A half minute sermon of “you make mistakes / you learn from them” with swirling images of every color and creed in the human spectrum (but none that might be confused as homosexual, dare JCP make the same mistake twice).

And my god. That somber, sullen tone.

You’d’ve thought somebody died. Is JCP apologizing for their involvement in the Gulf Coast disaster? Seriously – the ad feels better suited for some pharmaceutical company that’s trying to stand back up after a massive product recall that claimed dozens of lives.

The ad reeks of desperation. It’s diplomacy in the ultimate extreme; pandering to a waning, whiney base that’s standing with one foot already in the grave.

But worst of all, it’s devoid of all the personality the previous regime had worked back in.

You know, the foundation upon which JCP would begin to attract a new generation of store loyalists? Their key to fending off total obsolescence?

While old JCP meant nothing to me, I can appreciate it’s resonance with our parents and our parents’ parents. So why not strike a balance between retaining loyalists and charming new recruits?

Instead of a monochromatic, holistic lecture on personal growth, why not use the 30 seconds to:

Highlight SPECIFIC changes you intend to recall? 
“You missed your coupons, so we’re bringing them back in a big way.”

Reaffirm shoppers of the good you aim to keep?
(Because it wasn’t all bad)
“We’ll continue to build out fashion-forward store-within-a-store concepts for brands like Betsy Johnson and Sephora.”

You didn’t have to ditch the new colors, music, and logo just to get a heartfelt message across.

Have two audiences.

This ad only speaks to one and it’s not me.

And, to quote the title of your ad, It’s No Secret – us millennials will be all you have left before too long.

1 comment:

  1. Another spot on analysis, Dan. I'm sure you noticed that the end of the ad features a (modified) version of their more traditional 2012 logo, but have you seen their Facebook page lately? It still features the 2013 logo, but in a somber grey tone. What?