JC Penney's has fired its 8 month old President, formerly from Target, after the re-branding effort for the middle market department store failed.
Why is anybody surprised?
I wrote in this blog shortly after Penney's launched its new pricing policy along with a Target copycat style brand ad campaign that it was not going to work. The President who was fired got a signing bonus of $1.2 Million. Are you kidding me? Any well-trained and experienced brand marketer could have saved Penney's a ton of money by telling them their "new" strategy would fail miserably and why. I must also note that the CEO Ross Johnson who came from Apple is equally at fault but makes his brand division Pres the fall guy.
The bottom line is you can't take an old old brand that has been middle to lower market for years with price being its key benefit (and no real brand positioning that I could detect) and try to give it a brand makeover that mimicks one already around (Target) and creates a overly complex pricing scheme that is supposed to make understanding what things cost easy but does just the opposite. It was also supposed to move the needle away from just a pricing positioning to a lifestyle one, but the lifestyle approach and the pricing posture collided on day one in my opinion.
Let's see how long Johnson remains. Apple's retail experience was built from scratch the way they wanted it. That's the cred that Johnson brought to Penney's. The problem is Penney's retail concept has been floundering around for years and changing it can't be done quickly and by assuming you just forget the past and start with something completely new.
This surely will become a great B school case study in the near future how NOT to rebrand a major retailer. The real question now is will JC Penney's survive or die a slow death?
Watching out for you everyday.