J.C. Penney's New Logo: Will Its Fourth in Four Years Be the Charm?

JCPenney Logo
Lately, it seems the only constant at J.C. Penney (JCP) is change, so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the retailer is once again switching up its logo.

Business Insider noticed that J.C. Penney's apology ad from earlier this month -- which has since been pulled from circulation -- featured a different logo than we'd seen before.

The article also notes that this all-lowercase "jcpenney" logo likewise appears on the company's latest print material.

If this is indeed the new logo (there's been no official announcement from the company, and the logo hasn't been changed on the website), then it will be replacing the "jcp" logo that kicked off Ron Johnson's ill-fated tenure as CEO. That logo, in turn, replaced the "JCPenney" logo that put the first three letters in a box, which in turn replaced the box-less "JCPenney" logo.

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There's a clear progression in those first three logos, with each successive logo placing more and more emphasis on "JCP" until the company name was finally boiled down to those three letters. Now that Johnson's gone, the company seems to be backtracking and making a return to the full name.

Whatever the reason for the shift, erratic branding certainly isn't helping the retailer. By our count, the company has now had four logos in as many years, which means that as soon as one logo starts to stick in your head, it suddenly gets thrown in the dumpster and replaced. And Business Insider cites E-Poll Market Research, which found that recognition of the brand dropped every time J.C. Penney switched to a new logo.

The "new" logo is a lot closer to the old, pre-Johnson one, so maybe this is just the latest attempt to roll back recent innovations and make the retailer more recognizable to its core customers.

But if management wants a logo to stick in the heads of those customers, maybe they should stay with it for more than a year.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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J.C. Penney's New Logo: Will Its Fourth in Four Years Be the Charm?

It was repeated so often that it became dogma: Ron Johnson's greatest sin was ditching the sales and coupons. Johnson himself called it a "mistake," and one of his last acts as CEO was to abandon his pricing strategy and bring back the coupons.

While many commenters cheered the coupon comeback, a few were more skeptical of the return to the old regime. In fact, many noted that the retailer was obviously just jacking up prices just so they could lower them again with discounts.

Obviously J.C. Penney needs to bring back the sales and coupons if it wants to attract its wayward customers, but it should probably find a more subtle way to do it. Johnson was criticized for abruptly abolishing coupons without first testing the strategy; if the new management just slaps on higher price tags and then hands out coupons, it risks making the same error in the opposite direction.

One commenter identified herself as a sales associate for J.C. Penney, and said she hated the "dog and pony show" of the old coupon regime. Her comment got more than 300 'likes,' as well as comments from other sales associates who expressed how difficult it was to deal with price adjustments, extreme couponers and confusing sales.

"As an associate, I had Nightmares in Nov & Dec of 2011 when the coupons were out in Groves [sic]," said another commenter, who went on to suggest that the retailer should place limits on how many coupons shoppers can use.

The lesson for management? If you're going to bring back coupons, don't make a complete return to the "death by coupon" era -- it can be a huge pain for your employees.
In overhauling the retailer's apparel offerings, Johnson evidently wanted to transform its customer base into something more closely resembling Abercrombie's young and skinny crowd. Unfortunately, that meant that J.C. Penney's larger customers were left out in the cold.

Various commenters complained that plus-size offerings have dwindled significantly, and that they'd like to see all styles of clothing available in larger sizes. If the new management (which is mainly the old management) wants to win back customers, it will need to make sure customers of all sizes are accommodated.
Several commenters said that they missed being able to shop and order through a catalog.

Sure, most people who can't make it into the store will be inclined to shop online, which is more cost-effective for retailers than shipping out heavy catalogs and taking orders by phone. But members of J.C. Penney's older customer base may not be as technologically inclined, so it's likely missing out on sales by not providing it as an option.

The retailer has already made concession to its older shoppers by bringing back St. John's Bay and other "basic" clothing. Making it easier for them to shop from home would also be a good move.
One innovation that Johnson brought over from the Apple Store was the mobile checkout: Instead of waiting in line, customers could get checked out by a roving cashier toting a smartphone or tablet.
But much like the pricing strategy, mobile checkouts apparently don't play as well in a big department store as they do in the Apple Store (AAPL). We've heard from J.C. Penney employees complaining about the switch, and it looks like customers aren't thrilled either; a few commenters noted, for instance, that the process makes getting a receipt a hassle.

Maybe the system has been implemented poorly, or maybe it's just a case of an older customer base being confounded by innovation. Either way, this looks to be another change that J.C. Penney should scale back or reconsider.
Ron Johnson had a vision of a department store as a marketplace -- instead of just organizing clothes by department, he would have a collection of boutiques, each dedicated to one brand.

But the stores-within-a-store concept might be confusing some customers. One commenter pointed out that the layout makes comparison shopping difficult, forcing customers to visit multiple boutiques just to find a pair of jeans. Other commenters echoed that complaint, noting that they found the layout so frustrating that they left the store empty-handed.

The retailer has burned through a whole lot of cash remaking its stores, so we imagine management isn't thrilled at the prospect of undoing those changes. But if they want to get sales figures back up, they'll need to arrange their stores in a way that makes comparison shopping among its brands easier.
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