Thursday, June 7, 2012

Is a sale by any name just as sweet? Ask JC Penny.

If you watched this year’s Oscar broadcast you could hardly miss JC Penney’s (or should I say JCP’s) new ad campaign featuring Ellen DeGeneres.  But did you get it?  I know I sure didn’t.  Here’s one of the ads they ran featuring their new strategy – month-long values. 

This week CEO Ron Johnson told the audience at a consumer conference that “no one really understood what we intend to do is a sale; we run 12 a year.”  Really?  No wonder they had a dismal first quarter. (Zmuda, 2012)

What do you think of this ad?  Did you understand it?  Did it make you want to buy something at JC Penney’s?

Zmuda, N. (2102, June 7, 2012.  JC Penney Re-thinks its terminology, embraces ‘sales’ again. Retrieved June 7, 2012, from


  1. I thought the ad was a featured comic segment from The Ellen DeGeneres Show not an advertisement for JCP's. It really tapped Ellen's comedic style and was hard to differentiate whether she was in a skit for SNL or a commerical for JC Penny.

    The concept of the commerical was understandable if it was about coupons. It was not understandable as a commerical for JCP's having opportunities to save 12 times a year. However, I have been informed by a friend of mine that if you shop at Macy's you have to use coupons to get an extra discount during their various sale events. So I guess that what the commerical message was trying to convey was to mention the difference in the ways of saving. Macy's hassel with coupons. JCP's no need for coupons. Coupons just remind me of a grandmother going through the Sunday Paper looking for bargins on tolietries or dietary supplements.

    Personally, I rarely shop at department stores so maybe thats why I didn't get the "concept" of the commercial. The target of this commerical was defineitly wasn't me and did not make me want to buy something from JCP's not now and probably not ever.


  2. In my opinion, the goal of the advertisement in terms of providing a sale coupon 12 times a year was not met. However, if the goal was to build awareness that JCP has launched a non-coupon initiative, that was a bit more clear.

    Ellen’s comedic role helped depict the correlation between people being skittish about coupons, the way they are about weapons. From a consumer perspective, I usually avoid standing on line behind someone that has lots of coupons. I have seen cashier’s roll their eyes at the sight of coupons because they are burdensome.

    I like the fact that JCP’s coupon initiative is good for going green, but that would not be enough to go out and make me want to buy something at JC Penney’s.


  3. I did not understand this ad, nor did it make me want to buy something. I think that they could have done a much better job getting their main message across.

    With that being said, I think this ad was potentially effective because it helped to create a buzz and get people talking about JCP; though I'm not sure if this was the type of attention that the advertising agency envisioned. JCP garnered attention because they used Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. A group named One Million Moms called for a boycott of JCP, and frankly did a better job promoting JCP's no coupons campaign than the ad agency did. They created a buzz around JCP's "controversial" ad, which everyone then tuned in to see.

    I cannot say for certain that the buzz created around this controversy didn't attract JCP's target audience (because I'm not a member), but I do know that JCP is running a Father's Day ad which features a same sex male couple. This suggests that their strategy may have been a successful, and they weren't hurt by the boycotts. Why else go down the same road?


  4. JCPenney failed and miserably at attempting to rebrand the company. Previous to the rebranding initiative, JCPenney was typically viewed as a low price point brand, bringing the best value at lower costs to its consumers. Rebranding JCP attempted a new approach to, wait, they are still going for the same image - low price point, bringing the best value at lower costs to consumers. The only change was that the new brand will always provide the lowest possible price, therefore, not needing to run sales. Low prices every day, without sales or specials is something that has been used for about the last 20 years or so by a juggernaut (WalMart) that JCP does not have the capacity nor product or price point to compete. Taking away the deals and specials and JCP loses touch with the target audience - middle-class, middle America.

    I think everyone involved was out of touch with the branding efforts, including the CEO that stated the new campaign will run sales once a month (12 per year). There is a massive disconnect between the message of the commercials and the intent. The commercials say "no sales ever." The intent was "sales every month?" Furthermore, who is the target audience? Who is the target market? The cost conscious consumer? If so, doesn't running a Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Any day sale drive the consumer to the store, increasing the foot traffic?

    The numbers show how disastrous the efforts really were. Total sales, same stores sales, gross margins and foot traffic all declined 20%, 19%, 3% and 10% respectively.

    The message and marketing mix were too broad with what appeared to be an "old school" mentality to reach such a broad audience. My perspective is that instead of hitting the existing consumer based first (remember 80-20) and picking up secondary and tertiary markets along the way, the goal of the campaign was to throw spaghetti against the wall and grab what stuck. It seems like they tried to be hip, cool, clever and witty with an increased price point with higher value, while at the same time attempting to convey the message that they always have low prices. Confusion, confusion, confusion.

  5. It comes as no surprise to me that “no one really understood what we intend to do is a sale; we run 12 a year,” as stated by CEO Ron Johnson. At what point did that commercial imply constant sales? I believe the commercial accomplished one thing - to convince the audience that coupons were something negative, and JCpenny will not make you go through the hassle of them. The problem is that coupons these days are more accepted than ever. Companies such as groupon, living social, and other discount sites have made coupons more accessible and socially acceptable than they were in the past. Apps made for smartphones make these coupons hassle-free.

    Who is the target audience for the ad? Perhaps aging boomers who will not make use of sites such a groupons or the apps they provide? I agree with Paul that JCPenny has lost touch with their overall consumer target, which indeed is middle-class primarily in Middle America. Like Paul also said, if shoppers want the lowest priced products WalMart has it covered. JCPenny is supposed to be higher end. Their rebranding should have focused on creating a high end image for JCPenny so that middle class, middle americans can feel good and proud about shopping there. THe prices will be lower than other department stores, but make consumers feel like they are getting higher end products and service than they can get at Wal-Mart.

    Ellen Degeneres is an interesting choice for a spokesperson as well, especially considering JCPenny's consumer base. Like Rhon mentioned there has been much controversy over the choice. It seems like they are alienating existing and not doing a good job of persuading new ones. This commercial does not ever make me want to step into a JCPennys.

  6. Few issues with this ad:

    1) too long. way too much shtick of Ellen time traveling, poking fun at the way the wild west smells, etc. 60 second ad spots can be expensive, and the (failed) attempt to say "our prices are low, we don't need coupons" should have been compressed.

    2) it was funny for funny's sake. people may remember funny ads, until you say "hey, what was that coupon ad for again?" (*scratches head*).

    3) setting the commercial in another time period simply threw me off. I understand what they're trying to say here, "using coupons is incredibly outdated", but the connection just didn't stink. the inferior store that she was shopping in was too generic, and I couldn't identify it as being one of JCP's competitors.

    4) almost felt like a weak attempt to force a viral video...

  7. I think it would be fair to say that none of us got the point of this commercial. Making it with a western theme and putting Ellen DeGenneres as the spokesperson was entertaining….maybe. But we don’t even see any of the merchandise. She isn’t even wearing clothes bought at JCP. She mentions a pair of jeans but doesn’t put them on display. Why would a company that sells clothes not show some of the merchandise in the TV spot?
    I get (now that it has been explained to me after the fact) that they were trying to tell us that they don’t need coupons anymore because every day the prices are low as if they had a sale going on, But the roundabout way they went about it just didn’t click for me.
    I, as did some of our other classmates, thought it might have been better if it were a sketch from her day-time talk show. Furthermore, I don’t think waiting till the end of the spot to show the “jcp” logo really had a positive effect on me. I personally am not fond of companies rebranding themselves with their initials as the new company name. I could maybe understand Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranding themselves as KFC. With the fight to make food healthier, they did not want people to associate fried greasy chicken with their establishment. But, we all agree don’t we, that it is what they sell, isn’t it? But what purpose does re-branding JC Penney serve. I can’t think of any stigma with “JC Penney” that would warrant the name change. They were a household name, for Pete’s sake.
    The whole spot was just one big mistake.

    Jason S. Grant. Oh, I'm sorry. That's "jsg" now.:)

  8. I think JC Penny advertising efforts was to convey to its target market that coupons are out-dated versus its competitors still using them like Macys. However, the company using spokesperson and celebrity Ellen DeGeneres to continuing building brand awareness is good for sales but the commercial message should have been more modern appealing to audiences instead of a western-inspired commercial production.


  9. I don't understand. I don't understand the no coupons shtick, why they didn't model any of the clothing, and why the would use Ellen Degeneres.

    Okay, I know everyone likes Ellen, and her likability rating is most likely huge. The only reason I could see using her is she appeals to the target market.

    Here's my issues with her. The way they set up this commercial- not modeling any clothes, and not mentioning the brand till the end, some people might be confused. She is in other popular brand commercials (AMEX, and Covergirl), and she is known for wearing more unisex clothing. Having someone in a western outfit complaining about smell, I would think would be the opposite way you should have people think about your clothing.

    I remember previous JCP ads that I actually did like. They didn't have a spokesperson, but I was surprised that I liked the clothes in the commercial. I actually remember looking up the clothes on their website because I was like "hey, that would be great for work and I can't afford to spend a lot right now". So these commercials worked, since before that I wouldn't consider shopping there because when I thought of JCP I thought of my mother's outdated, frumpy clothing. I always knew they had low prices.

    I think they missed the mark. Yes, they should appeal to people's want of low prices, but they should also appeal to people's idea of FASHION for low prices. I think humor in this industry is a little odd. I like Ellen, but I don't think this commercial was funny and I missed the point. IF they wanted to do humor, they need to make sure people get what they are trying to sell.


  10. I have to agree with the Mr. Johnson – I did not grasp that the goal of the ad was to convey a message of 12 sales a year. It wasn’t until the final seconds I even realized it was an ad for a department store. While I understand using Ellen for comic relief, the overall message could have been much clearer. Featuring specific items from the store, mentioning great savings or flat out describing the promotion would have been far more effective than Ellen traveling back to the Old West.

    It’s no surprise that the overall concept fell flat. As Mika said, coupons are seemingly used now more than ever. Just this week, Apple announced its new mobile operating system would feature a new app, Passbook, which will store and allow customers to access their coupons instantly via their iPhone. Services like this completely counteract this promotion. I’m sure many of JCP’s target consumers enjoy using coupons and seeing the savings instantly appear at the register.

    The ad and overall campaign does not make me want to shop at JCP. Then again, seeing grown men scream over Justin Bieber didn’t make me want to shop at Macy’s either. (