JCPenney's New Logo Goes for Fun and Young

Jcpenney new logoOscar viewers will get a glimpse of jcpenney's new look on Sunday when the chain unveils a redesigned logo, tag line and fashion focus in several commercial spots during the awards ceremony. It's part of the department store's effort to refresh its image for a more modern customer.

"We've made significant progress transforming our company over the last several years by infusing great style into our assortments, delivering world-class customer service, and introducing new and innovative retail technologies that have made jcpenney a retail leader in the digital age," said Mike Ullman, chairman and CEO for jcpenney. "Our new logo reflects the modern retailer we've become while continuing to honor our rich legacy." The new tag line declares, "We Make It Affordable, You Make It Yours."First, the "JCPenney" of yesterday is now all lowercase, in written materials, signage and the logo. According to the company, the logo puts greater visual emphasis on a new, lowercase "jcp" by positioning it slightly off-centered in a red box, while still featuring jcpenney's signature red color. According to a company statement, "The logo was designed to evoke a sense of movement and discovery as the letters appear to break out of the box, symbolizing an emergence into an exciting, new future."

That future, according to the retailer, will hopefully allow jcpenney to be viewed as a fashion leader, one that houses brands like MNG by Mango, Sephora stores inside jcpenney, and Call It Spring by The Aldo Group. Jcpenney will also be the exclusive retailer of Liz Claiborne and Claiborne apparel and home merchandise. The Oscar night commercials will push all these points. There will also be social media components -- Twitter feeds and Facebook pages -- and new online and in store technologies to showcase these brands.

But will it accomplish the chain's stated goal of looking young, fresh and modern?

"When you go to lowercase like this, it's usually to be informal, playful, young and more accessible. I assume that's where they're trying to take the brand," says branding expert Eric Masi of Torque Marketing in Chicago. "Still, it's a pretty bland logo."

And the description of the logo, and brand's, new direction -- "to evoke a sense of movement and discovery as the letters appear to break out of the box, symbolizing an emergence into an exciting, new future" -- sounds like advertising spin. "That's just somebody trying to spin what is a nondescript logo into something meaningful," says Masi.

Still, according to jcpenney, it's the most meaningful update to the company's logo in 40 years.
Will it take? "People are incredibly resistant to change," notes Masi. Most media outlets never even adopted the one word, uppercase version of the store's name -- JCPenney -- choosing instead to call the company J.C. Penney. "There's a personal investment in a brand that has always been there. Humans are inherently drawn to patterns. There's great comfort in predictability and when you break that pattern, people are very upset."

Something The Gap discovered last year when it tried to change its logo and got slammed by furious customer comments. The move lasted just one week. Other retailers have had less negative responses and the new logo announcements are coming fast and furious, now that the recession is over and consumers are a bit more positive and open to spending. There's a new Starbuck's logo, FAO Schwarz is coming back with new stores and a new logo, and NBC's new logo even does away with the iconic peacock.

"Everybody is desperately trying to reclaim an audience. Sales were down and now businesses are scrambling reinvent themselves," says Masi. "Branding has always been a great way to say that something new is going on." As for J.C. Penney, JCPenney, or jcpenney, "I think they're doing the right thing, you either reinvent or you die."

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