August 9, 2018

Unexpected Takeaways From the Ad Club's CMO Breakfast with JCPenney

“Stylish women love JCPenney. Some of them just don’t know it yet.”

 

Like I had, you might be thinking, “Really now? Coming from a brand with a decades-old value first reputation?” Yes, really. Bear with me on this because I wasn’t buying it at first either, but there’s something fascinating here.

 

My expectations weren’t exactly clear walking into the AdClub CMO breakfast featuring Marci Grebstein, JCPenney’s recently appointed Chief Marketing Officer. In fact, I hadn’t heard much about JCPenney in recent advertising news at all. So, as I settled into my seat in the Google auditorium, I carried my perception of JCPenney as being an outdated brand with me. What followed in the next 60 minutes of Marci’s presentation radically shifted that perception, and propelled me into a state of furious notetaking.

Expectations: 0. Marci: 1.

As Marci spoke, my previous perceptions were countered by a surprising portrait of a progressive brand that has altered its messaging to meet the the modern American mom where she actually is, not where the rest of the world expects her to be.

 

How did JCPenney break from an old brand perception and arrive at their new strategic positioning? With Marci’s lead, the company invested in what many brands have yet to: critical brand perception research and journey mapping. They put in the work to better understand the modern American mom, their bullseye audience. The result? A clear picture of her values that transcend just standard demographics alone—

 

  • Convenience: She’s a working mom who doesn’t have a ton of time.
  • Family: She puts extra emphasis on family - her real family, work family, friend family. She loves spending time with them, especially when shopping.
  • Price: She’s on a tight budget, so finding style for less is important.

These newly pinpointed values exposed a critical insight that ultimately drove JCPenney’s brand repositioning: The modern American mom wants to find value without sacrificing style.

 

When you think of value forward, you might think Walmart or Kohl’s. When you think of style forward, you might think Nordstrom or Macy’s. To meet this mom where she is, JCPenney repositioned itself to exist at the intersection of both. This opportunistic white space was the driving force for a major shift in marketing communications—breaking from the old “Get your Penney’s worth” tagline, and transitioning to “Style and Value for All”, a nod to their diverse and value-driven audience.

 

JCPenney has since rolled out everything from new brand anthem spots touting their new messaging to fresh fashion, beauty, and influencer partnerships—all of which reflect a diverse range of people and lifestyles, centering on shared American values and family.

 

 

 

I applaud JCPenney’s efforts to get smart about their customer. It can be scary for brands, especially ones with long legacies, to step away from the standard. But JCPenney took these consumer insights as an opportunity to break free from the mold and instead represent who their customers really are—people of all different sizes, cultures, family types, and mindsets.

But wait, there’s more.

Extending beyond a commitment to reflecting their diverse consumer in their advertising, Marci confirmed the brand also puts strong emphasis on diversity in hiring. When I asked if JCPenney works to ensure that the multicultural woman they’re targeting is reflected in their work force and marketing decision makers, Marci met my question with enthusiastic appreciation.

 

She shared that she thinks diverse perspectives inevitably lead to stronger communication strategies—and that giving traditionally underrepresented populations in business a seat at the table is important to her. In support of this, she proudly shared that 60% of JCPenney’s decision makers are women, and growing numbers are racial minorities.

 

I’m of the belief that a sea of sameness yields more of the same. Strategies are elevated by the healthy tensions that diverse perspectives bring. And we need more of that.

 

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The sometimes difficult, but always invaluable self-reflection that JCPenney embarked on with their brand perception and consumer research is something all of us as marketers can learn from while navigating the ever changing consumer landscape.

 

Want to check out Marci’s full presentation and decide for yourself? Watch the full presentation here: http://theadclub.org/cmo/jcpenney/

 


 

This blog post was written by:

Alyssa McBryar, Marketing Manager

Liz Lauzon, Assoc. Business Development Manager

 

December 6, 2016

How AI Will Create the Perfect Ad for Every Individual

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The advertising industry has made huge strides in targeting, but there's one more big step to take to make ads truly relevant: We need to adapt each creative message so it is interactive and personalized to every single individual. The key to achieving what may be the holy grail of advertising is a thriving branch of artificial intelligence known as deep learning. It uses algorithms to mimic neural networks' capabilities to recognize and act on abstract patterns.

Closer than you may think.

December 5, 2016

Amazon Unveils Futuristic Checkout-Free Grocery Store

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Grab and go.

October 20, 2016

The Power of Cohesive Branding: Why Apple Wins

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The days of just selling stuff are long gone. Today, in the race for consumers, marketers need to create entire, cohesive ecosystems in order to provide the most value. In Interbrand’s 2016 Best Global Brands report, Apple snagged one of the top spots, the brand value rising 5% to $178.1 million this year. A big part of what makes brands like Apple valuable is their cohesiveness as a connected business system. Apple communicates with its customers through its hardware, software, and retail stores to deliver one of the best consistent narratives.

Apple stays on top.

September 22, 2016

Walmart, Lowe's, and Whole Foods are Banking on This to Compete With Amazon

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The rise of automation in the fast-food industry has made headlines in recent months, as chains such as Panera and McDonald's have heavily invested in tech that threatens to eventually replace human workers. Now the grocery and retail industry is looking to get in on automation as well. Walmart recently patented a system of self-driving shopping carts with mini robots that can complete a long list of duties once reserved for human employees.

Shopping without the work.

August 18, 2016

The CEO Guide to Customer Experience

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What do my customers want? The savviest executives are asking this question more frequently than ever, and rightly so – they understand they are in the customer experience business, and that how an organization delivers for customers is as important as what it delivers. In this guide, experts explore the fundamentals of customer interaction and the steps necessary to redesign the business in a more customer-centric fashion.

Putting customers first.

August 17, 2016

Retailers Like J. Crew Are Obsessed With Data. (And It’s Killing Your Shopping Experience.)

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As shoppers ourselves, it’s a routine we already know extremely well by now. It goes like this: You walk into your favorite fashion retail store. You’re welcomed by a retail floor assistant. They repeatedly greet you with a scripted engagement every three minutes until you checkout or leave. You may think it is over at this point, but really it’s just the beginning. 

Double down on digital instead.

July 25, 2016

How Mobile Has Redefined the Consumer Decision Journey for Shoppers

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When people shop, their smartphone is now their go-to advisor and assistant. For retailers, this means big opportunities to be there and be useful in shoppers' micro-moments. In this introduction to a five-part series, Google reveals the mobile retail trends shaping the industry and why they matter.

Be there and be useful.

July 22, 2016

Bigger Budgets for Back-To-School This Year, According to National Retail Federation

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Retailers might just get their wish this back-to-school season. Yesterday, The National Retail Federation released a report that predicts consumers will spend more, shop earlier and be more receptive to specific promotions. The survey found that total spending for kindergarten through 12th grade and college should reach $75.8 billion, up 11% from last year. The expectations are in stark contrast to 2015, when shoppers waited till the last minute to spend and cut back on purchases.

Retailers, start your engines.

July 19, 2016

The Evolution of Marketing Platforms: From Automation to Journeys

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In the beginning, marketing automation platforms basically involved if/then rules: if a customer takes this action, show this response. But overlapping e-mail campaigns with if/then rules become very complicated very quickly, especially when you’re talking about millions of customers, each one in a different frame of mind, and each expecting his/her own personalized experience. As a result, marketing platforms are evolving to the newer approach of customer journeys that are often guided by machine learning.

It's all about the customer journey.

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