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 So, as I settled into my seat in the Google auditorium, I carried my perception of JCPenney as being an outdated brand with me.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

 

September 14, 2011

Gettin' My Missoni On

Well, I don't have any of my purchases on yet, but Tuesday morning at 5:30am, I 'got my Missoni on' at Target.com. I logged on in my bathroom, hair still wet, teeth not yet brushed. I nervously and excitedly clicked away and chose a dress, swimsuit, and four scarves. The last time I felt such Internet excitement was when, again from my bathroom at 6:00am, I finally got Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way'? video premiere to load. Minutes later, after updating my Facebook status to share the news of my purchases, I was even swapping texts with a fellow fashion-obsessed friend. I was telling her what I scored online, and she was sending me pictures of the pre-opening scene outside a local Target store.

I was one of the lucky hundreds of thousands of self-proclaimed fashionistas to snag some of the Italian designer's mass-market goodies before the site crashed later that morning. 'We are suddenly extremely popular,'? was the unfortunate message shoppers were met with as they were made aware of the site's unexpectedly high traffic.

Although the collection was sold at mass retail, Missoni was able to maintain its high-class, designer status by keeping the event fairly secret, and very separate from the main designer brand. It was teased in a blog called 'All The Way Up Here'? where the author described herself as an elementary-school-aged porcelain doll. There were no actual mentions of the brands' collaboration by Target or Missoni in the blog, only a doodle in the margin reading, 'I love these guys! Target and Missoni. I can't believe I'm working for them and they're sending me to New York Fashion Week! So Cool!'? Weeks later she blogged, 'The Target and Missoni partnership wants me, yes, your doll, to take my blog to NYC and continue blogging everything Missoni, Target, and fashion from the style frontlines.'? The collaboration seemed official and on August 10th, the blog posted sneak peeks of merchandise, confirming the rumors.

I should share that I was a little skeptical of this overdone, designer-at-mass-retailer concept. Shallow as it may sound, I believe that designer fashion is a status symbol. Why would I spend even a little more on something that isn't easily recognized as 'designer'? without checking the tag? Collections from Paul & Joe, Isaac Mizrahi and others at Target have been barely recognizable as pieces by the designers. Missoni patterns, however, are recognizable and timeless. A print from 1960 is still relevant and fashionable today. This identifiable look and timeless value is what appealed to me. In an economy where labels have become less important to the once label-conscious, Target made me care again. The excitement continues as I eagerly await the arrival of my fabulous purchases!

April 19, 2010

A Long-Term Relationship: From Runway to Crosswalk

I've been wearing stripes for about a year and a half now ' fully confident they are still on trend thanks to support from not only supermodels, but supermodelquins (à la Old Navy). The nautical-inspired trend went from runway to crosswalk with extreme speed and has lived far longer than the average fashion plate would have expected. In this long-term trend shopping basket you can also place oversized sunglasses, leggings, plaid (although color changes by season), gladiator sandals, neutrals, and even shorts with tights. Go no further than the bins of last year's spring clothes in your attic to freshen up your closet this season.

Here's my simple theory: the recession has turned fashion on its tousled head. Even the most fashion-driven consumers simply don't have the cash to be investing in a new wardrobe each season. They demand looks that are versatile and can transition from season to season with the addition of an accessory or two. So far, it seems what consumers today are demanding, is what fashion brands across the spectrum are providing.

So if you call yourself a fashionista, the next time you see a top, shoe, accessory, or bag on a woman and say to yourself, 'That's so two years ago,'? look down. You're probably wearing something she could say the same about!

October 7, 2009

Excessibility

Some people think I'm crazy, but I like to make up words. I think I've said that before, but I'll fearlessly say it again as I introduce my latest epiphany ' 'excessibility.'? I define it as 'excess available to the masses;' accessible excess. It's a concept many high-end designer-low-end-retailer pairs have sold consumers on. Put a low-end cashmere scarf donning Isaac Mizrahi's name in Targét, where before cashmere had never seen the light of day, and you have some new excess or luxuriousness consumers are privy to. It's cheap, low-quality luxuriousness, yes, but I want the real Mizrahi for $30. I want some of the high-fashion experience.

H&M to the rescue!! The fast-fashion retailer and Parisian high-fashion designer Sonia Rykiel are launching a new line available in December at both H&M stores and Sonia Rykiel boutiques. Finally, consumers can get a real, high-fashion piece ' or at least one worthy of being sold at Rykiel's stores. The lingerie and knitwear collections are said to be inspired by what walked the runway in Rykiel's 40th Anniversary show last October (above).

So on December 5th, tell your man about this accessible, yet excessive lingerie. The recession-friendly line arrives just in time to for him to do some last minute holiday shopping.

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