5 Timeless Marketing Truths J.C. Penney Ignored

5 Timeless Marketing Truths J.C. Penny Ignored

It’s awful.  A great, iconic American brand is suffering.  J.C. Penney lost $4.28B and its stock is down 55% since CEO, Ron Johnson, launched the brand’s new strategy a year ago.  Now, Ron Johnson has been fired.  There is no doubt these results could have been different.

Here are 5 Timeless Marketing Truths J.C. Penney ignored:

  1. It’s Not What You Know; It’s Who You Know.  Ron Johnson obviously has some amazing talents.  He revolutionized the retail experience for Apple and it’s customers.  But Apple’s customers and JC Penney’s customers are radically different.  It appears Mr. Johnson ignored one of the most critical Timeless Marketing Truths: It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.
  2. Slow and Steady Wins the Race.  J.C Penney’s new management changed multiple brand/marketing components very fast.  Yet the time-tested winning formula is Continuous Innovation: Test Quickly.  Analyze Rigorously.  Iterate Constantly.  Leveraging the time-tested method of never-ending improvement enables a brand to fail fast while minimizing their risk as they evolve and reinvent.
  3. There’s Safety in Numbers.  By applying the scientific marketing method – and it’s fixation on ROI — it’s hard to spend $504MM more in advertising and have sales plummet 25%.  J.C. Penney’s movement away from expenditures that provide ROI clarity, like online advertising and newspaper couponing, and its movement to less accountable advertising methods, certainly hurt.
  4. Make New Friends, But Don’t Forget the Old:  One is Silver and the Other is Gold.  The behavior of the J.C. Penney’s long-standing customers was clear.  Their response to pricing, promotion, merchandising strategies was well understood – but ignored.  A marketer’s first obligation is to make sure you turn your advocates into evangelists.  Then, once you’ve solidified your existing relationships, you try to attract new customers. This mistake is arguably the Timeless Marketing Truth that brands violate most.
  5. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try, Try Again.  Scientific Marketers are fixated on rigorous testing.  While it didn’t seem that this rigor was embedded in the J.C. Penney culture this past year, Ron Johnson’s admission yesterday that he made “big mistakes” suggests that this Timeless Marketing Truth is one J.C. Penney will soon apply.

While J.C. Penney didn’t give me a “Penny for my thoughts”, I couldn’t help but throw in my two cents.

To hear some marketing truths another time , follow me @KimmelsCorner on Twitter.

Also, to tell the truth, I’d love it if you share this post. 



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