Repairing a Broken Customer Relationship

Maintaining the trust and loyalty of a customer base for over a hundred years is a challenge that very few companies have achieved. Shortly after crossing the century mark, JCPenney faced significant brand damage. The challenge of redeeming a tarnished brand and winning back customer loyalty is more than most companies would be able to withstand. In Part 1 of this series, Author Micheal J Pallerino offers us insight on how JCPenney was able to do re-energize its customer base in part 1 of this series.


Understanding What Your Consumers Really Want
By Michael J. Pallerino
Part 1 of 2
There were no hidden agendas. Debra Berman’s job was simple. Just several months after being named JCPenney’s chief marketing officer in July 2013, Berman was tasked with rebuilding the relationship the once storied brand had with its customers. Wrought with negative headlines stemming from liquidity concerns and plummeting analysts projections, the retailer’s stock had hit levels not seen since the early 1980s.


And if that wasn’t bad enough when Berman looked at the marketing resources at her disposal, she wasn’t confident there was anything there to help woo Penney’s consumers back to the brand.
The former Kraft Foods executive and turnaround specialist acted quickly, bringing in a whole new agency team, including vaunted branding firms such as Doner, EVB and Victors & Spoils. To give Penney’s consumers what they wanted from the brand, the new marketing team had to drive traffic – period. There would be no friction between “this is branding” and “this is promoting.” The strategy rested in a broad tool kit that could do both. In the end, the goal was to restore faith and footsteps in JCPenney.

Two recent branding campaigns – “Rise,” which aired during JCPenney’s first foray into the Olympic advertising game and athlete sponsorship, and its “When It Fits, You Feel It” initiative – have helped jumpstart the retailer’s rebirth. But there is much work to do.

A closer analysis of JCPenney’s plight shows that the key is not only in knowing what your consumers want, but also what they need – a task that can be as daunting as it is simple amid today’s ever-changing consumer mindset. The real key, as marketers like Berman aim to achieve, is to build a trust factor between the brand and its consumers.

“Consumers love clear and direct messaging with a clever twist,” says Jen Whitesell, owner, and creative director of MKJ Creative. “This type of messaging causes an emotional response that makes a brand unique. Marketing clients want bold ideas that help them stand out from all of the other messages that consumers encounter. They are looking for a brand that is a match for the promises it makes.”

Whitesell, who has worked closely with Fortune 100 companies for more than 15 years, says a campaign’s potential success can be seen during the creative process – a time when the brand’s story is brought to life.

“This process is why their customers are able to connect to their brand,” Whitesell says.

The key is to help the brand differentiate between what your customers want and what they need – a process that can be tricky at times. “Often, our clients come to us with ideas of what they think is needed, and, after time, they come to see that they may be too close to be objective,” Whitesell says. “After this realization, they often let us lead them through our discovery process to get them on the right path. We believe that listening is a key factor in differentiating what clients want and what they need.”

 

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