Thursday, August 8, 2013

Penney For Your Thoughts

Retool, Rebrand, Refresh.

James Cash Penney (his real name) began working for 'The Golden Rule' store in Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902, later buying out all interest in that venture, and moving its HQ to Salt Lake City to be nearer the banks and the railroads. There he re-founded as J.C.Penney Company in 1913 with business partner William Henry McManus. The following year HQ moved to New York City.

As you can see, the brand has gone through many brand and slogan iterations over many successful years of diversification and expansion. 

Penney succeeded in the transition from the downtown-centric stores to the mall environment, but struggled and began divesting other interests in the modern era. They dropped their quaint but iconic black/blue, brush stroke logo for a more streamlined look, reintegrating the JC, no periods needed (see JPMorganChase). The font reminiscent of the earlier Sears brand.

 In the 2010s the company was challenged by a changing, internet-driven economy. And as it struggled it seemed to continually rebrand as a way to suggest a new beginning. First a transition to a more vibrant key color and slightly bolder version of font.
Then 2011: CEO Ron Johnson buys shares of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and launched 'mini-Martha shops' in stores, and enhanced web. Here is a shift to all lowercase with [jcp] reversed out of a solid red box. Seemed the next obvious step was to detach the square and reduce the brand to [jcp] alone.

In a fractious 2012 Ellen DeGeneres, a former employee, became spokesperson and the store made press for blatantly courting the gay customer. President Michael Francis exited after only 8 months on the job. Probably falling on his sword for his boss. But meanwhile, in a fit of near-genius the brand became an American flag, enlivening the label and the advertising for a moment with it's clever use, as it mimicked other brands and flags that we know.

With his 'Shops' (stores within a store) strategy failing, Johnson is fired in April 2013.

What next?

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