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JCP: From Catalogues to Denim Bars!?!

The most experienced and effective marketing professionals will usually agree that keeping the client in the press and on the public’s mind is beneficial to promoting brand identity, especially in an institutional fashion.  Frequent articles and stories can help grow a brands identity across marketing segments and expose the brand to new potential customers who may be inspired by the information and may be motivated to test, what is to them, an unfamiliar brand.  In the case of good news, it can create excitement and motivation, after all we all love being part of a good success story.  But when it comes to polishing the brand, attracting new converts and growing a business; too much bad news can be really, really bad news for a struggling business!

News continues to trickle out of the troubled retailer, J.C. Penney.  It’s bad news for its business partners and investors, bad news for thousands of its associates, and particularly bad news for its loyal customers.

We all look to our business leaders, the CEO’s, the Presidents, the Board Directors and the COO’s for lessons and inspiration, unfortunately as is the case in life’s many best learned lessons,  we often learn the most profound lessons from our failures.  The leadership at J.C. Penny has contributed more than its fair share of lessons over the past two years.

The Board of Directors of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. [NYSE: JCP], recently announced that Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III has rejoined the Company as  Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.  He has also been elected to the Board of Directors.  Mr. Ullman is a highly accomplished retail industry executive, who served as CEO of J.C. Penney until late 2011.  He succeeds Ron Johnson, who is stepping down and leaving the Company.

This most recent departure of leadership makes J.C. Penny America’s most cautionary tale and follows a plot line of mass exodus of loyal customers and a 25% reduction in company revenues.  Penney lost almost a billion dollars, half a billion of it in the final quarter alone. The company’s stock price, which jumped twenty-four percent after Johnson announced his plans, has since fallen almost sixty percent and twenty-one thousand jobs have been lost.

Upon his departure, Johnson has become the target of unrelenting criticism. “There is nothing good to say about what he’s done,” Mark Cohen, a former C.E.O. of Sears Canada, who is now a professor at Columbia, “Penney had been run into a ditch when he took it over. But, rather than getting it back on the road, he’s essentially set it on fire.  Johnson, and his previous compatriots in failed leadership, seemed determined on implementing wide sweeping, revolutionary marketing strategies that appeared to be destined from the outset to miss the target when it came to the largest segment of its customer base.  The new revolutionary strategy’s only success was to frustrate and confuse the company’s loyal fans and left everyone to ponder three questions.   Where did their familiar retailer go?  Who were they trying to become?  And where were they going?

Turning a major company away from its past identity and moving it forward with a strategy that brings a sleepy and complacent giant into the new business market reality is difficult, really difficult.  But large brand remodeling and revolutionary, untested marketing strategies most often bring about decline and failure not success.  Michael Roberto, a management professor at Bryant University, put it this way. “Small wins help you build support both internally and externally, and they make it easier for people to buy in.”

Penney’s board no doubt believed that Johnson’s record with former employers, Target and Apple, all but guaranteed that he’d succeed at J.C. Penney.  But this perception probably reflects what psychologists call “the fundamental attribution error”, our tendency to ignore context and attribute an individual’s success or failure solely to inherent qualities.   Ron Johnson has become an example of what Warren Buffet believes, “When a manager with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for poor fundamental economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.” At the onset, Johnson brought an Apple-minded focus on reinventing business innovations whilst losing site of the core fundamentals of the business.  Perhaps the most profound lesson from Ron Johnson’s missteps can be attributed solely to J.C. Penny’s Board for its decision to select Johnson for the leadership role to begin with.

While Penney can’t erase the last 14-months, there is inherent value in the lessons learned.  Vision is not always a recipe for success.  As marketers, we keep our thumb on the pulse of what is trending in all social, local, and mobile.  Our ideas are fueled by advancements in technology.   However, success is a result of systematically assessing the wants, needs, motivations, and expectations of those we serve not those that lead.  Penney needs to get back to the fundamentals of its core business and the customers it serves.

Solavei: The Network Where Social Meets Commerce in a Big Way

Solavei™, the first social commerce network for mobile services distribution, is grabbing headlines in anticipation of its September 21st launch.

Solavei™ is a new social commerce company offering an affordable, contract-free mobile service that actually pays back consumers for adding new members. The Solavei Mobile Service is a comprehensive mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) utilizing T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G network. As a member of the network, consumers sign up for a $49 per month unlimited voice, text and data plan, and earn income by engaging friends and family to purchase the mobile service through Solavei’s integrated social networking platform.
“We are going to make a difference in people’s lives by shifting billions of dollars from traditional mass-media advertising into the greatest advertising vehicle today – people,” said Ryan Wuerch, founder and CEO of Solavei. “Solavei is the first company to create an economic linkage between mobile service, social commerce and social-networking technology. We give people the opportunity to earn income by using and promoting the services they are already consuming each and every day.”

The first half of 2012 has brought quite a bit of excitement across the marketing and media industries. Facebook stole the headlines with the unprecedented valuation and their May 17 IPO that is now considered one of the worst performing of 2012. Twitter experienced its longest service disruption since an hour long outage in October 2011, causing an internet freak-out. Just now, as Q3 begins, Microsoft and NBC complete a web divorce that has industries speculating what the future holds for NBCnews.com. The appointment of Marissa Mayer, 37, to run the global media giant Yahoo! as the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500 continues the trend. While it’s hard to predict what is to come, it’s safe to say that Solavei is attempting to do what no other company has tried.

“As a purveyor of all things social and mobile, Solavei is positioned to completely revolutionize the market place,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner of Junction Creative Solutions. “As founding members, we have the access to test the platform before its official launch into the marketplace. As an agency, it’s a great experience to be involved with such an amazing group of leaders who will make a significant impact on consumer behavior, social networks, and commerce.”

Gareleck is sharing a few spots for other industry leaders interested in testing this new network before its debut on September 21st. Contact Gareleck at julie@junction-creative.com for an invitation.

ABOUT SOLAVEI

Solavei is a social networking and commerce platform that enables users to connect, share and capitalize on the power of social networks. Solavei’s mission is to make commerce less expensive by empowering individuals to earn income on the products and services they enjoy and use every day. Solavei’s initial product offering is affordable, no contract, unlimited text, voice and data services throughout the United States. It operates as a MVNO through a strategic partnership with T-Mobile USA. Solavei is led by former Fortune 100 telecom and retail executives and advisors. For more information, visit www.solavei.com. For the brand’s latest news and updates, find Solavei on social media at facebook.com/solavei and twitter.com/solavei.