Know your archetype, know your audience
A lesson in branding and culture
If you’ve turned on the news at all in past years you may have heard that J.C. Penney is having some problems, or JCP as it has now branded itself. In fact, JCP was recently named the number one brand most likely to disappear in 2014. What’s up with this 110-year-old brand?
A quick timeline of recent JCP events:
- 2010: Reports a 36% profit increase
- 2011: Flooding and shortages cause cotton prices to hit an all time high. JCP raises earnings expectations and shares drop 5%
- November 2011: Ron Johnson, Apple retail star, takes over as CEO
- December 2011: JCP drops longtime advertising and public relations agencies Saatchi & Saatchi and M Booth & Associates
- January 2012: Johnson gives an Apple-like keynote and introduces a new logo (the third in three years) to showcase its “fair and square” pricing
- April 2012: JCP lays off 10% of its corporate staff, 5,900 employees, replaces nearly all of its top executives, and fires 1,000s of middle management
- May 2012: The company’s worst day ever. Stock drops 19.7% while Macy’s reports a 38% profit increase.
- December 2012: One Million Moms issues a boycott calling for JCP to fire spokesperson Ellen DeGeneres due to her sexual orientation
- March 2013: JCP is slammed with a licensing lawsuit between Martha Stewart and Macy’s
- April 2013: Ron Johnson is replaced by former JCP CEO, Mike Ullman
- Summer 2013: JCP releases a forgiveness ad campaign, apologizing to shoppers
- Fall 2013: JCP announces its returning to its old logo (10/9 update)
A long two years of crisis have brought JCP where it is today. Yet, back and forth the CEO swing continues to sway whilst major construction and overhauls continue in many of the stores.
With sales down 20%, internet 33%, and almost $500 million in reported losses, it might be safe to say JCP is in a bit of a crisis.
What can JCP do?
A brand is only successful if it is strategic, informed and most importantly – genuine. As we at Allegory say, you can’t pull a story out of thin air and from the looks of what JCP has created, it’s new brand may be so far off the ground it has completely lost its footing.
The Everyperson Archetype
JCP is an Everyperson organization. It is a comfortable group where everyone belongs. You don’t need to be of a certain caliber or kind to shop there. There is a no-nonsense, unpretentious appreciation of all people. It’s advertising attracts people through common experiences – back to school shopping stress, Christmas gifts from Grandma, life made simple. Some successful Everyperson brands include Wendy’s and Dunkin Donuts. Brands like these attract people who are looking for simple, quick, consistent and loyal service.
Yet, switch up the systems and you might just be where JCP is. In extreme situations, an Everyperson organization may let extreme democracy rule. What’s extreme democracy? Remember the Revolutionary War? The American leaders were people banding together under extreme demand for change. Now, I don’t mean to imply that JCP is a war zone, but the characterization holds true. When a group is too concerned with committees and grand schemes to fix problems, it only causes a slow moving blame game. These committees will find who is to blame, expose them, remove them and then hunker down for the attack.
Luckily, Everyperson organizations are strong. The democratic core keeps them solid. However, looking at JCP, it may seem like they’ve been hunkering for quite a while. Its forgiveness campaign might be a sign it is surrendering the fight for change and replacing it with compromise.
The JCP Future?
We get wiser with age. We may cut our hair or change our clothes. But, we’re still the same person, only better. Rebranding should be taking the same you and making it better, not becoming an entirely new person. JCP tried to be a new person. Losing sight of its Everperson core and disconnecting itself from an entire base of customers is going to be costly. If JCP can reevaluate what it’s true message is, what it’s core existence is and act only from that place then it can turn itself back around.
What do you think? Will you be heading back to JCP?
“J.C. Penney is reverting to its classic logo, in a move to appeal to loyal – and likely lapsed – customers,” says Advertising Age in a recent article. The company is also phasing out of using JCP and returning back to its full name. Will a return to its roots mean success again for J.C. Penney?
Curious about your company culture and archetypes? Take our archetype quiz to uncover your organization’s archetypal identity!