Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Surprise me, reinvent the brand

JCPenney announced new CEO. Photo: Vancouver, Washington store.
Mid-June, department store J.C. Penney’s announced they had captured Ron Johnson, a big-name retail strategist. Previously, Johnson had success securing both profits and positive brand-buzz for the world’s largest technology company, Apple. Johnson made it to Apple via a department store name Target.

Can an Apple guy who pinged off the bulls eye of Target combust old thinking and reinvent a department store founded in 1902?


An article by Knowledge Wharton, the business journal of the University of Pennsylvania, said JCP will need to shed an archaic image, develop a new niche and embrace mobile technology.

That sounds like a recipe for success for any business.

First, though, distinguishing the brand from other retailers that are almost mirror images of each other is demanded. How many times have you been to the mall and thought one store was as good as the next? How many department stores does a community need? Just the one with the best price? Not really. Consumers need quality balanced with price, consumers need choices, and consumers need surprises or humor to help them distinguish one brand from the next.

Distinguish your brand by being down-to-earth or out of the stratosphere. But either way surprise us.

Developing fashion channels outside the U.S. could be the next surprise from J.C. Penney’s. Delivering more advanced mobile technology than a coupon texted to a phone could be another.

There are plenty of companies like J.C. Penney’s that could use some brand exercise. To compete with online venues, many brick and  mortars need to reinvent and rejuvenate themselves. They need to think and think fast.

The question remains whether anyone of them can think fast enough and act on it within slim budgets.

Watching Ron Johnson work within the confines of a tight economy will be both educational and entertaining.

If you could shop anywhere for your next CEO  — where would you start?