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J.C. Penney's First Step Toward Credibility

A new ad shows great humility, but will asking customers to come back actually bring them through the doors?
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J.C. Penney has just launched a new series of television commercials the beleaguered merchant hopes will lure shoppers back to its ailing stores.

The 30-second spots went live on YouTube, and were posted across social media as well, on Wednesday. They are unique in that they admit past faults of the company. They also stress the need to begin listening to the disenchanted consumers who once frequented their nationwide chain of retail outlets. 

I admire J.C. Penney's new campaign, and believe it will make consumers stop and re-consider the damaged brand. But whether it will lead to increased sales is a different matter entirely (since the latter depends solely on merchandise, the in-store experience, discounts, etc.).

Americans love to forgive a personality, or a brand, that admits fault. We despise those that cover-up their faults. So, while we’ll never give Lance Armstrong a second though, I do believe Americans shoppers will respect the vulnerability being shown by J.C. Penney in its advertising.

Fact is, most American companies don't listen to their customers. Instead, they rely on reams of quantitative data that, they believe, tells them everything they need to know. Only it doesn't. In fact, that approach is strictly old school, inside out, and top down in its thinking. And, it's why J.C. Penney failed in the past.

By actively listening to what customers want and need from the brand (and walking in their shoes), J.C. Penney is taking a crucial first step toward re-establishing its credibility with customers.

IMAGE: DB's travels via Flickr
Last updated: May 2, 2013

STEVE CODY | Columnist

I'm a climber, comedian, and dog lover. But not necessarily in that order. I also happen to be co-founder and CEO of Peppercomm, a strategic communications firm headquartered in NYC, with offices in San Francisco and London. I publish RepMan, a daily blog, and have had the opportunity to appear on CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, and a host of other top-tier media over the years. scody@peppercomm.com

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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