All Posts in Branding

November 23, 2015 - No Comments!

JC Penney is Suffering an Identity Crisis

J.C. Penney Co. is suffering an identity crisis, and one that began before the disastrous term of Ron Johnson back in June of 2011. The Penney brand got old and tired. Pretty simple. Johnson had the sexy resume line item of coming right out of Apple. If anyone could revive the retailer, it would be him. We all know what happened—the implosion came fast and furious. But why?

JCP Identity Crisis_2One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s not change that people are afraid of, it’s the pace of change.” This saying applies to personal situations, workplaces, and your customers. Ron Johnson moved too fast. He tried to apply the Apple ultra-hip, no price compromise model to a store best known for its men’s khakis. It was too big of a stretch. And the Penney’s core customer is not the same as the Apple customer.

The consequence was two-fold: both Johnson’s personal brand and the J.C. Penney brand took a hit. In both cases, perhaps non-recoverable. Enter Marvin Ellison. In a recent interview with the Dallas Business Journal, Ellison revealed his plans for turning around the company and rekindling the damaged relationship with his core customer.

My first reaction to the article was that it was a little underwhelming, a little lacking in a sense of urgency, and a little elementary. Revamp the bedding department. Improve the online shopping experience. Not exactly Apple-esque. But safe. And while safe might be boring, I have to admit it’s probably the best approach for Ellison to take. Ron Johnson made a mistake that Ellison has not. He didn’t consider the customer. He thought what worked at Apple, with a completely different customer demographic, would work at JCP. There was no consideration of the customer. And the customer felt it. The change in what they knew and trusted from the Penney brand came too fast, with no warning and no explanation. The retailer was in trouble, and Johnson made it worse.

Ellison can’t afford to make the same mistake. He can only hope to undo the damage. Proceed with caution. Go back to the drawing board. And then hope he has a customer base left that will still be loyal. I like his plans to bring in a celebrity exclusive with Michael Strahan and the Sephora store-within-a-store concept. Will it be enough to keep the stores treading water long enough to apply some bolder moves down the line? Perhaps. Will the storied retailer go the way of Sears or Montgomery Ward? Likely. Either way, Penney and other retailers can learn some valuable lessons about staying true to your brand promise. Change is okay, if introduced and executed in a mindful way. With so many opportunities to engage in conversations with your stakeholders today, there is no excuse not to talk with them. And when you do introduce change it will be as a result of your customer being heard. That will go a long way towards rekindling those lost relationships and positioning your company for long-term success.

JCP Identity-crisis

February 11, 2011 - No Comments!

If the Shoe Fits, Wear It

My friend Terri Thornsvard has an enviable job as a docent at the Madison, Wisconsin Museum of Contemporary Art.  She recently wrote a blog that I thought could be applied to branding.

Terri Thornsvard, docent MMoCA

"I joke a lot about shoes —especially my Louboutins (which incidentally I do not have). I have 3 daughters and I have told them that when I am old, senile, and in a wheel chair in a nursing home they are to put high heels on me, paint the soles red and tell me they are Louboutins. My point is, that over the years I have been trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Like many of us I have had many roles to play but could never comfortably settle into a label or shoe that fits. Read more

October 14, 2010 - No Comments!

With branding, less may not be more.

Miller Coors beer and the Gap apparel could have learned a huge lesson from Tropicana orange juice on how NOT to rebrand.  I’m usually a very big advocate of “less is more” in marketing and P.R. I believe that shorter, bolder statements trump paragraphs of texts, especially in Web sites and press releases.  I think you can say a lot with a little; and when it comes to graphic design, that is the case sometimes as well.

But the recent debacle with the Gap trying to change its logo was a testament to the fact that when it comes to your brand, less may not be more. Several companies, including the ones I named above, have tried to...i don’t know...appear more contemporary? Cleaner?  Minimalistic?  Whatever the motivation, none of these things were accomplished.  The result in all cases was an insultingly simple design that was not only  generic, but also an insult to the consumer [and fellow marketers, I might add.]

We are all aware of the impact that social media has on news and business.  Everyone has a voice. Good as well as bad spreads...like a giant global wildfire.  If companies are smart, they will pay attention to the feedback, and in this case, the backlash.

Tropicana was the first to make this very public mistake. Read more

December 10, 2012 - No Comments!

I Have an Image to Protect!

I am all about brand integrity. Whether it is a person, a product, or a company (including my own), my dedication to building and sustaining the integrity of a brand is uncompromising.  And a brand is not just about the logo; maybe it used to be in the “old days.” The logo certainly needs to make a statement, send a message, tell a story. I talked about this in a previous blog, “With branding, less may not be more” about several logo debacles from well-known brands. But in this digital age, branding reaches across all digital platforms and encompasses not only the logo, but service levels, how well companies respond to customer comments on social media outlets, how they handle crisis on the world’s media stage, and the list goes on.

Nieman Marcus is an iconic brand. When I first moved back to Dallas in the summer of 2011 I lived in the Mercantile building right next to the original store, founded on September 10, 1907. I used to imagine the rich oilmen going into the Mercantile Bank while their wives shopped at Nieman’s. Can’t you just picture it? Read more