Marketing Lessons Thanks to J.C. Penney’s B of D

6 Marketing Lessons from the JCP Snafu

One just has to love the way large corporations continue to give small business folks with mucho markeMarketing Lessons - J.C. Penny New Logoting lessons.  And such is the case with the Board of Directors (B of D) of J.C. Penney.

If you’re in business, particularly retail, you’re familiar with the JCP story, so I don’t have to regurgitate it for you.  If not, you can read a good report of what transpired from this Wall Street Journal article.

I want to shine a flashlight on the rather obvious mistakes made by the B of D in hopes of helping the small business owner.  These marketing lessons are universal – for big and not so big alike.

That said, there is a lot of behind the scenes B of D power plays happening that you and I will never know. But the shenanigans are pretty obvious even to outsiders and most likely contributed to the current sorry state of affairs of JSP.  But I want to look at the common pitfalls that the JCP story tells us.

Full J.C. Penny Disclosure

I’m not a stockholder in JCP, however, the store has been an old friend.  My single Mom used to buy our annual back-to-school clothes at JCP.  As an adult, JC Penwaa was my second choice behind Target and over a Sears or K-Mart.

I never shopped Penny’s for the coupons, but I don’t clip coupons for any store.  I went there because it had a better grade of merchandise at a reasonable price than did other stores.  I liked the brand the way one likes an old tune from their childhood.

I also liked the changes in the stores.  From dark and crowded to light and bright.  Nicer merchandise at old fashion Penwaa pricing.  I’d be sad to see it close.

Marketing Lesson Take Aways

But this post isn’t about my feelings toward the store.  It is about the obvious wrong turns by the B of D and management that got the store into this pickle and the lessons we all can learn.  Here they are.

1.  Be brutally honest about the problem

One can’t fix a problem if the problem hasn’t been identified.

When I say “identified”, I’m not talking about educated, boardroom or golf course guesswork.  I’m talking about a serious, blunt evaluation of the problem best conducted by objective outsiders with little to gain from the outcome.

Many would say that JCP’s trials stem from the growth of online marketing and dressing up brick and mortar stores did nothing to correct that problem.  Others have said it is because the chain turned away from its existing customer base and tried to do too much too quickly.

Either of these scenarios could be correct, but without knowing which is the real problem, there’s little hope of finding a solution.

2.  Be committed to changeMarketing Lessons of JCP -  Commitment

Once the problem is identified, one has to be committed to make the necessary changes.

AND recognize that the process will be uncomfortable and bumpy because change always is.

But the only way to make progress is by working through the change and the associated pain.  That’s where the reward hangs out – on the other side.

3.  Have a vision BEFORE moving forward

Understanding the destination will help ensure your prospects of getting there.

Wandering is a great pass time on vacations, but not when running a business with thousands of people and vendors depend upon your decisions.

4.   It’s NOT about YOU!

It is always, always, forever about the customer and rarely, if ever, about you.  Customers, particularly today’s customers, hold the power and they will tell you if you’re on the right track or not.

5.  Always push forward

Without growth, a business dies.

This is what was happening to JCP, what is happening to Sears, K-Mart and other big retailers that are not responding to market changes.

The world moves too fast to stand still.  You always have to be pushing forward.

 6.  Innovation has a price

At the core of innovation is the requirement to be ‘different’ and that can cause some to be very skeptical, uneasy, doubtful.  But innovation is the road map to success. It is the opposite of stagnation.

As a business owner, you want to be always looking for new and innovative ways to market your business and keep it alive, growing and moving forward.  This is how success is created and maintained.

What other marketing lessons have you learned from the J.C. Penny story?  Are you a J.C. Penny shopper?  What did you think of the changes?   I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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