Another day, another story about a logo change. Except this time there is a (slightly) happy ending.
Of the many changes Ron Johnson made during his disastrous sojourn at the helm of J.C. Penney, a transformed logo seems minor. Yet the fact that the company has changed the logo back suggests an important learning about brand strategy.
Changing the logo to the initials “JCP,” putting the letters in a small box, and putting that box in the corner of a hollowed-out square was part and parcel of the never-ending desire to “modernize” and “update” and “refresh” a brand (in layman’s terms = “f&ck with”). The latest trend has been to go all acronym or initials, like we told you in our post about NBC Sports Network, which became – * drumroll * – NBCSN.
We blame it all on Computer Associates, circa 2006. In an attempt to distance the brand from a sordid past of scandals, the company became “CA.” When its brand awareness sank like a rock, months later it became “CA, Inc.” (*tries not to laugh out loud*)
Finally, in 2010, with brand awareness still in free fall, the company settled on “CA Technologies.” None of the other name changers seemed to take heed, and the initials continued to pile up. “JCP” among them.
It might work for technology companies (think IBM and HP), but no one ever said “Hey Mom, let’s go shopping at JCP.” The shorthand or nickname was, of course, “Let’s go to Penney’s.”
Looking back, it makes sense that Johnson and team would strip Penney’s out of the logo. After all, they neutered the entire J.C. Penney brand – the offerings, the essence, the experience.
Which is why it’s also an important first step to bring “Penney” back. To signify to prior customers that the brand they knew and loved is coming back (or trying to, at least).
Two interesting points to finish off this lesson on branding. For some strange reason, the chap at BrandAdvisors, the agency that neutered, er, created the “JCP” logo, felt compelled to defend himself in a recent posting on Ad Age. For instance, in the article he illustrates how “JCP” stands out among eight other retailers’ logos.
It is damning evidence, however, because not a single one of them “initializes” – i.e., hides – its brand name. (Unless being wrong is now accepted as a way to “stand out.”)
Secondly, he then throws mud at the reverted logo – that’s right, the change back to “JCPenney” – by saying this:
“Unfortunately, it's going to take far more than reinstating the old logo to right the ship of J.C. Penney…”