JC Penney Rebrands For Success


In their third attempt to reinvent a classic American brand, JC Penney has forged a new approach in all of their communications.  As for the company’s new red-white-and-blue logo, the new brand image evokes our nation’s flag and promises a commitment to treating customers “Fair and Square”. The square frame imagery is prominent  throughout all of the company’s marketing to remind customers to frame the things they love.

Needless to say, it’s critically important that the company solidify it’s relationship with decades of loyal customers while appearing new enough to attract new brand fans.  To help do this, the company will begin delivering millions of copies of its new monthly book, including nearly 100 pages of highlights for that month.  JC Penney stores across the nation will undergo a complete overhaul of in store signage and retail presentations.

The company’s president Michael Francis notes some important aspects of this critically important brand relaunch:

“We are redefining the JC Penney brand so we become a store for all Americans, by offering an experience they cannot get anywhere else. This will start by freeing consumers from the barrage of promotions and undifferentiated shopping experiences they have become used to and replacing it with something entirely fresh and new that is evident in every aspect of our store – new brands, new marketing, unique attractions, and much more. Beginning on February 1, our customers will see immediate changes that give a sense of how we will transform JC Penney over the next four years. It will be a breath of much-needed fresh air and give them reasons to visit JC Penney more often than ever before. Our objective is to make our customers love to shop again and across JC Penney, we’re very excited about the changes to come.”

In what could only be considered a brilliant move, the retail giant aligned itself with an intensely popular celebrity that reaches a younger, female demographic – Ellen DeGeneres:

Beyond a series of light-hearted spots, the brand focuses its efforts on providing value again to its consumer base.  The promise of “Fair and Square” has become the company’s brand promise – reflected in every aspect of their marketing.  While the promise is more than serious, the approach has been fun and engaging – putting a truly new spin on an old retail brand.

Beginning this August, the company will begin a month-by-month, shop-by-shop strategy to update all stores with new and exciting merchandise and presentation. Two to three shops will be installed monthly, each and every month, over a four-year transformation period, including the debut of “Town Square” during 2013. All of these re-branding initiatives will  complete the company’s physical transformation by the end of 2015.

Response to JC Penny’s new brand position has been largely popular…but what do you think about it?  Will it create the kind of interest to reshape your thinking about the brand, and get you to give it a try again?

Drive By Branding


I ran across this post (no pun intended to the image above) from fellow blogger Pam Moore, and thought it was so on target that you might enjoy its serious levity as well.
Brands, as we may both know, are not just logos – and they certainly aren’t built as quickly as a logo might be designed.  Beyond your company’s basic marketing platform, your brand represents the goals, objectives and unified identity that you want your customers and partners to be able to clearly identify and understand.  Great brand strategies have plans and purpose – just like great businesses have a business strategy for their products and services.

Definition of Brand:

A brand is the identity of a specific product, service, or business. A brand can take many forms, including a name, sign, symbol, color combination or slogan. The word brand began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. A legally protected brand name is called a trademark. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service.

Pam Moore’s 15 Hints You are Guilty of Random Acts of

Branding (RABs)…  or what I like to call “Drive By Branding”:

1. You make midnight changes to your logo and launch the next morning on Facebook.

2. Your new logo does not match any of your other colors or fonts… yet you launch the lame  midnight logo anyway.

3. You leave a networking group and feel some competitive pressure, so you decide it’s time for a website overhaul which lead to the logo change.

4. You have no plan for your new website or logo overhaul.

5. You developed your new logo and/or brand elements in Powerpoint. You did a screen capture

of the image from Powerpoint because you don’t know how to create a .jpeg or .png file.

6. You have no idea how you are going to modify the rest of your brand elements to match your now launched but terrible logo.

7. You don’t know what to do with your ugly logo you launched. Nobody responded to the email asking for feedback.

8. You don’t really have good Adobe Photoshop or design skills yet you do all of your own graphic design work.

9. You have no formal training or real business experience on brand, marketing or design yet you do all of your own plus your clients design and brand work.

10. It doesn’t really bother you that all of the above is true. Your thought is “it’s just colors, people know what I can really do.”

11. You think it’s cool to be just like your competitors. You also figure it’s easy to copy them so why not do it.

12. You think your market will think you are the same as your competitors if you just copy/paste their experience and make it your own.

13. You think it would take too much time to put a real brand strategy together.

14. You think by copying your competitors brand people will think you’re just like them even if they double your experience, have twice the team and real branding skills.

15. I am annoying you with all of these statement because they are true. You want to think I am wrong, but you know deep down in your heart I am right.

Ok… let’s be honest.  Are you guilty of any of these villainous acts of branding?    Can you imagine how much time and money you might save by taking the task of branding seriously before you begin marketing or advertising your product or service?  We have branding process that works…every time if you’re in need of any help.


How to Interpret the Language of Branding


Branding professionals, like so many other types of work, often use terms that are both confusing and unknown to many of their clients.  While it’s true that branding terminology can be its own language, it’s not hard to decipher – just type “branding terms” into any browser for a bit of research.  But really, who wants (or needs) to rush to a computer in order to understand anyone who’s job is, in part, clearly communicating basic values?

I’m going to make the assumption that you’d rather have a quick overview of branding terms, rather than spend the hours it might take to review the (literally) millions of results you’ll get from an online search of brand terms:

Brand: There are many ways to express the concept of “brand”, but basically – they’re all the same.  A brand is a promise about who you are and what benefits you deliver.  This “promise” is one that needs to be reinforced each and every time people come in contact with any facet of you, your product and/or your business.

Brand Identity: In more common terms – a logo.  This mark can be made of many parts that represent the values of your brand.  It might include a specific logo design, color scheme, symbols and typeface(s).

Brand Image: Brand image is simply the set of beliefs about what your brand is…what it stands for…what your customer associates with you and your brand’s name.

Branding: Is the process of building positive perceptions in your customer’s mind.  Note: (not YOUR mind…your customers).

Brand Position: How your compares to (and perhaps collaborates with) other brands that are in your competitive market.

Brand Management: Is the process of controlling your brand’s identity and message throughout your entire organization, and through the all communication channels (including the media)

Brand Equity: Is the value of your brand’s assets – its qualities, reputation and recognition – and the demand it creates.  A brand with great equity creates loyal customers that carry their loyalty through to future revenues.

Ther are many, many other terms you’re likely to encounter when you enter a conversation about brands.  Brand message, brand strategy, brand revitalization, rebranding or even brand extension – just to name a few.  You don’t need to worry about these at first – as the basics will help guide you through.

Is Branding Important? Really?

From our experience, far too many companies jump to developing a logo or website before they really have a full understanding of the foundations of their brand.  Too many companies just want to rush to develop award-winning logos and impressive website or  launch materials only to have their sales go sideways when the customer has an actual brand experience.

You and I both know this – false promises don’t work in the end. Your brand must honestly, accurately convey who you truly are each and every time the customer encounters you, and every single other “touchpoint” every other of your brand.

It really doesn’t matter if your selling and marketing a product or service.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re a small company, or a large corporation – the branding process applies to you along with the same benefits you’ll receive from getting it right at the start.

Branding Your Bottom Line


When was the last time you took time to consider your brand?  If you’re thinking about your logo, you’d only be partially on track.

Your company brand isn’t simply what you appear (or want) to be, its what you do, and how your perceived.  One of the easiest ways to understand this is to simply replace the work “brand” with an alternate word – “reputation”. Your company brand includes every touch point by every stakeholder that’s in contact with you, including your internal resources such as management, employees, vendors and most importantly – your customers and prospects.  Crafting your brand’s communications at the beginning of your outreach will save you money, while substantially increasing your effectiveness – especially in comparison with your competition.

Brand Faults

Poor brand development can results in many losses to your bottom line.  Here are a few you might consider avoiding:

No Point of Differentiation

Contrast and compare your product or service with your competition. Besides obvious factors like price, what really makes you different?  WHY should YOUR customer care?  With a strong positioning statement and strategy, your customers will want to build a relationship with you that could last a lifetime.  If price is the only factor that sets you apart, you’ll not gain a significant part of the existing, or future market potential.

Lack of Brand Image

You know how the logo on your card is different than the one on your sign or in your recent ad?  Perhaps the font your using on your letterhead isn’t the same as what you use on your website?  Or that shade of green that you like on your brochure just isn’t the same as your logo?   This inconsistency within your brand will certainly create confusion.  With the few precious seconds that you have to establish your brand in the mind and heart of your prospects, you can’t afford to cause any confusion that might cost you business.

Unreal Brand Values

If great customer service is one of your brand values, then leaving a customer on hold for more than a few brief moments isn’t consistent with your promise.  And if your customers can’t trust your business promise, then how can they trust you enough to buy from you?   Ignoring your brand’s core values will cost you loyal customers and new prospects – and you may not even know it’s a problem if you don’t look carefully at your brand.

Lack of focused offer

If you’re good at providing one singular product or service – then focus on that without trying to become “all things to all people”.  Competition, especially in today’s challenging economy, is more aggressive than ever.  If you’re an accountant, would you consider adding another line of work to your office and provide legal counsel?  Of course not.

But too many brands fraction their efforts early in the process of determining their specific brand niche – and bring so much competition to their door, that they can’t survive the crush of competitive brand messages.  Be the brand leader in your category – no matter how narrow that category may be.

In addition, it’s far more cost effective to market a specific product to a target audience than to shotgun a series of products or services to the general public.  Get specific, and you’ll get results.

Poor Internal Communications

When employees can’t get real information from management – they make it up for themselves, and develop rumors that take more time to address than resolve.  Rumors have “legs”, and can easily become a perceived reality in the marketplace – to your current customers and prospects as well.  If your stability is in question, you’ll feel the money leaving your hands before it even gets to you.

Leverage Your Brand

Branding is critical for every business, and even for nearly every professional personally.  Whether your launching a new business, or have been in business successfully for years – addressing your brand will provide you with the foundation for continued growth, or to gain the necessary market share that you’ll need to be successful.  Build you brand as a competitive asset – as you would your legal and financial status and systems.  As a core value that’s often overlooked, don’t be one of the many businesses who invest in every aspect of their operations – with exception to their most valuable asset – their brand.

What have you done to codify your brand?  Do you have it written down in detail so that you can share it with your staff, customers and prospects?

Branding Is Marketing’s Foundation


As a branding collaborative, we get more than our share of calls to “design our logo…you know…our brand”.  That’s usually when the conversation turns to business topics that are far more important to think about before a logo is created – the foundation of the positioning and messaging – your brand.

Branding is much more about business design and the creation of a foundation from which marketing can do its work. Branding is about creating the unique positioning of your company. Marketing is about getting the word out.

When approached with the intent to determine a unique brand, we set the stage for being meaningful, unique, relevant and most importantly, memorable. It’s about having a unique story or purpose that unifies those that matter most – you, your staff, and your clients.

Your Brand Promise
Branding is not simply the expected features and benefits of your product or service. Branding is uncovering (and sometimes creating) your distinctive difference.  Your individual “thumbprint” in the market place.  It’s what sets you apart from all other competitors. It is what motivates you, your people and untimately, excites your clients to choose you over another similar product or service.

Delivering On Your Brand Promise
Once you have a clear understanding of your unique positioning in today’s competitive market, you must then be organized and ready to deliver on your promise. Every action, every initiative, every plan must be intimately and obviously linked to the delivery of your unique brand promise.

Your Brand Means Everything
More than just a logo, your brand image is the sum of all your tangible and intangible traits — the ideas, beliefs, values, prejudices, interests, features and history that make you unique. Brand image may be the best, single marketable investment a company can make.

Does your brand image communicate your promise and competitive difference clearly to your customers?  Are you clear about how to best communicate your unique position in comparison to your competitors?  Who do you think has a strong brand platform…and why?

What Color Is Your Brand? (video)


One of the most popular posts on SmartBlog was written just a year ago about the significance of various colors for brand images.

Here’s a fun video that accompanies that bit of information we thought you’d enjoy watching:

How important do you think colors are in communicating your brand’s attributes?

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