This is the third post about a JCPenney logo change in the last three years. Something ain’t right. In 2011 we covered what JCPenney called “the most meaningful update to the Company’s logo in 40 years” that involved a 200-option bake-off where a University of Cincinnati student won the competition. This change was carried out under then CEO Mike Ullman. A year later with a new CEO Ron Johnson — credited to have pioneered the Apple retail store while working at Apple — JCPenney introduced what was actually the most meaningful update to the company’s logo, which we also covered and I think I was in the minority of people who liked the new logo (and still do).
Unveiled with great pizazz and promises of an improved retail experience and sales, what transpired in the next 18 months has been considered one of the worst performances in retail history. This article has a thorough timeline of the events. Highlights include mass layoffs, confused and upset customers, and a near-1-billion-dollar loss including an abysmal $552 million loss in 2012’s 4th quarter. This past April Ron Johnson was fired and Mike Ullman reclaimed the CEO post. JCPenney’s first move? Issue a 30-second apology ad.
Since that ad ran, JCPenney has been struggling to keep up with which logo to use, still having most store signage with the pre-2011 logo, some with the 2011 logo, and very few with the 2012 logo. Print, TV, and online ads also struggled to keep it straight with old, new, and oldnewold logos being used. According to E-Poll Market Research, cited in this article, logo awareness (or how recognizable the logo was to those polled) went from 84% in 2011 to 56% with the square jcp logo.
Kate Coultas, a spokeswoman for J.C. Penney, confirmed the retailer is phasing out “jcp” in communications, noting that the classic logo has reappeared in TV spots the last few weeks. That logo, a simple red font, which features the first three letters of the retailer’s name in uppercase, is now rolling out to various print and digital pieces, as well as the retailer’s credit card, she said.
“As we transition to a more iconic and recognizable design, the change will give our loyal customers a sure sign that we’re still the store they know and love,” Ms. Coultas said.
It is now confirmed that JCPenney is getting rid of the jcp square logo, that the name is not going to be all lowercase anymore, and that it should be called JCPenney not JCP. It’s not going back to its previous logo but its previous-previous logo which, in all this madness, seems like the one smart decision to bypass the 2011 blip. The “new” logo is as inoffensive and bland as most of the clothes you can buy at JCPenney and as interesting as the retail experience either inside the store or the generic nature of getting to it through the innards of a shopping mall. There is nothing wrong with the logo but it does signal that JCPenney isn’t going to be taking any risks moving forward or that it will try to do anything but go back to the old ways of doing things in order to steer the company back into profitability or at the very least respectability.
Often we question why a logo change is needed, or what are the business implications of changing a logo, or why do new CEOs always feel the urge to change a logo upon their arrival. This is a perfectly clear case where the logo has been used as a way to signal change with every sway of turmoil on the business side of things and, in this case, it has come with a heavy price for JCPenney that now stands with a broken brand and confused customers. But I guess it’s nothing that another 200-option bake-off wouldn’t cure. Right, Mr. Ullman?