JC Penney Patriotic Rebranding Is Not a Hit with Consumers

In a rebranding effort led by CEO Ron Johnson, whose prior claim to fame was being the head of Apple’s retail strategy, JC Penney launched a new logo with a patriotic twist. Up next will be store redesigns and a complete restructuring of prices into three tiers — everyday, monthly specials, and clearance. To help drive awareness, Ellen Degeneres has been brought on as the new JC Penney spokesperson. According to AYTM’s consumer panel survey, those efforts might not be enough to save the struggling retail chain.

jcpenney logo 2012The new logo (pictured to the left) is the third one JC Penney has had over the past two years. This time, the logo is accompanied by a new tagline: “fair and square,” which refers to the brand’s new “fair and square” pricing. A visit to the redesigned JC Penney website reveals the following message on the home page:

“This year, we turn 110. So we’re rethinking, reimagining, and dreaming up new ways to make you love shopping again. We’re going to treat people as we’d like to be treated. Fair and square. We’ll have great prices everyday, spectacular prices that last a whole month, and it won’t stop there. We’ll keep matching our calendar to the rhythm of your life. Because we don’t want to be the biggest or the flashiest store. We want to be your favorite store.”

AYTM asked consumers how they feel about the new JC Penney logo, and according to the survey results, it appears that JC Penney still has a lot of work to do. When asked to provide their opinions of the new JC Penney logo, more than 1 out of 2 people stated they did not like it. Here is the breakdown:

  • I love it = 5%
  • I like it = 19%
  • Neutral, neither like it or dislike it = 19%
  • I don’t like it = 42%
  • I hate it = 15%

These results were fairly consistent regardless of gender. The same is true of respondents’ feelings toward the logo’s use of patriotic elements. Overall, 61% of respondents were not affected by the patriotic theme at all while 28% said it made them like the logo more and 11% said it made them like the logo less.

One of the most important findings from the study is how the new logo will impact consumers’ intentions to shop at JC Penney. Nearly 3 out 4 people said the new logo would make them neither more or less likely to shop at JC Penney. Again, results were similar regardless of gender. The detailed breakdown follows:

  • Much more likely to shop at JC Penney = 7%
  • Somewhat more likely to shop at JC Penney = 8%
  • Neither more or less likely to shop at JC Penney = 72%
  • Somewhat less likely to shop at JC Penney = 7%
  • Much less likely to shop at JC Penney = 7%

Finally, AYTM showed survey participants a copy of an article from Green America outlining JC Penney’s use of overseas sweatshops for manufacturing (see it here). 71% of respondents were not at all aware of JC Penney’s use of overseas sweatshops for manufacturing.

Next, respondents were asked if the knowledge that JC Penney uses a patriotic theme in its logo despite its use of overseas sweatshops would affect their intention to shop at the retail chain in the future. Only 1 out of 3 respondents stated that this new knowledge would not affect their intention to shop at JC Penney in the future. The specific breakdown follows:

  • I don’t shop there anyway, but if I did, I would stop immediately = 24%
  • Definitely would not shop there anymore, they should be ashamed = 24%
  • I only shop at American Made store and I was aware, so I don’t shop there = 4%
  • It will not have an effect on my shopping there — we can’t fight the corporate giants = 35%
  • Other = 14%

Interestingly, this was an area where responses did differ by gender. While 42% of male respondents stated that JC Penney’s use of sweatshops along with a patriotic logo would not have any effect on their shopping at the retail chain, only 30% of women felt the same way. On the flip side, 45% of male respondents stated that they don’t shop at JC Penney or will not in the future based on this knowledge. However, 56% of female respondents stated that they don’t shop at JC Penney or they will not shop there in the future based on this knowledge.

Given these findings, it’s not surprising that analysts are concerned that JC Penney is rolling out its rebranding efforts prematurely and overpromising a brand experience that it’s not ready to fully deliver on. What do you think?

You can view the complete survey results below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.