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May 3, 2013

JC Penney Apologizes

by KevinW

Following up on the recurring JC Penney theme throughout the course, the latest chapter in the sage finds JC Penney apologizing to its customers via a social media push. BrandChannel catalogues the marketing effort here: http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2013/05/01/JCPenney-Mea-Culpa-050113.aspx.

While the messages do not specify what JC Penney is actually sorry for, the campaign was launched shortly after the release of Johnson as CEO, so one can guess it may have had something to do with the policies he implemented, such as the “no sales” approach implied by the everyday low prices strategy. The campaign spanned several social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, with a dedicated hashtag #JCPListens. The regretful tone of the commercial marks a sharp departure from the typically upbeat commercials of the struggling department store.

Apology campaigns like this may be effective in conveying the willingness of a brand to change and to incorporate customer feedback into improving the business model. However, this campaign by JC Penney, while it pledges to listen to customers, does not indicate any particular changes that will be enacted. The lack of specifics in the campaign, both in the company’s past wrongdoing and promised areas for improvement, I believe will undermine the effectiveness of the campaign. Without any tangible changes for the customer to consider, the apology seems to ring hollow and demonstrate a weakness in the brand that would not have been present with an apology that had been paired with promises for improvement. While this may be an effort to generate some goodwill for the new management, the ads do not even mention that the management has changed, leaving the message even more vague. If JC Penney wants customers to give them a second chance, they will have to offer more than apologies – they will need to demonstrate they have changed, as well as create a lure (an expansive sale, or new customer rewards program, etc.) to draw customers back to the stores so that they can experience the changes firsthand.

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