Penney Seeks to Make Its Lovemark

Discussion
Sep 08, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


People who have heard Kevin Roberts, the chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi, speak about “Lovemarks” tend to come away impressed. Not the least of these apparently
was Ken Hicks, president and chief merchandising officer of J.C. Penney.


Last week, Penney announced it had hired Saatchi & Saactchi as its new ad agency of record. In a press release issued to announce the deal, Mr. Hicks, said, “The perception
of J.C. Penney lives in the hearts and minds of our customers and is shaped by every interaction they have with our brand. Saatchi & Saatchi has a proven track record of working
with clients to help them connect with customers.”


For those not familiar with Mr. Roberts and Lovemarks, it is a term he invented to describe brands that connect with consumers on an emotional level. Lovemarks, Mr. Roberts claims, are able to create “loyalty beyond reason” on the part of consumers.


On landing the Penney account, Mr. Roberts, said, “In these times, forming long-term emotionally driven relationships with customers is the best way for a company to achieve
prolonged success and unwavering customer loyalty. We want to help take J.C. Penney to the next level in connecting more deeply with its customers by inspiring ‘love’ for the
J.C. Penney brand and elevating the brand into a true ‘Lovemark.'”


In attempting to raise Penney to Lovemark level, Mr. Roberts, by his own definition may have bitten off more than he or his agency can chew.


Lovemarks, he has asserted, “reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can’t live without. Ever… Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a Lovemark away and people will protest its absence. Lovemarks are a relationship, not a mere transaction. You don’t just buy Lovemarks, you embrace them passionately. That’s why you never want to let go.”


Discussion Questions: What are your thoughts on the emotional connection consumers feel with J.C. Penney today? Does it have the potential to become
a company that consumers embrace passionately; one that inspires “loyalty beyond reason?” What role will Saatchi & Saatchi’s work play in creating this emotional connection
between consumers and J.C. Penney or is it entirely up to the retailer to make this happen?

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7 Comments on "Penney Seeks to Make Its Lovemark"


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James Avilez
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James Avilez
14 years 5 months ago

When I think of a “lovemark,” Nordstrom comes to mind. Many people just love Nordstrom. I can see the appeal. For me, it’s Barney’s and Marshall Field’s. JC Penny I am sure has some very nice merchandise; it’s just the way it’s presented I have a problem with. Too crowded, too cluttered; it comes off as too desperate. I walk in and immediately walk out to the mall to get some air. It’s claustrophobic; clothes piled all the way up to the ceiling; it looks cheap.

Great stores IMO, like Barney’s, Field’s, Banana Republic, Target and Crate and Barrel, have a spaciousness, a lightness, an airiness about them that’s very appealing. Pre Federated Macy’s also shared that quality. I walk in to those stores and immediately I smile and want to explore.

Jack Borland
Guest
Jack Borland
14 years 5 months ago
We’ve seen a practical example of “Lovemarks” recently with the decision to fold several other regional brands such as Marshal Field’s into the Macy’s brand. Some Marshal Field’s patrons are picketing the rebranded Marshal Field’s State Street Chicago flagship store. Would J.C. Penney evoke the same reaction today? I’m pretty sure the answer is “no.” Could it in the future? It’d be a Herculean task. Could Saatchi & Saatchi do it? Only if they were able to change not just marketing and branding but also actual store operations. Brand love occurs when the total customer experience, every interaction the customer has with the company, is superior. Beyond the products themselves, the in-person, online, telephone, and print communications and interactions have to be in alignment with what the customer expects, wants and needs. Nordstrom is a great example here. If you can’t demonstrate that customer-centric focus, then you won’t develop that “Lovemark.” If you can demonstrate it, your consumers will include a large number of passionate brand advocates who’ll actively recruit new consumers to your brand.… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Gee, as high as I am on J.C. Penney these days, Lovemark seems a bit over-the-top in terms of expectation.

. . . Is there such a thing as a Likemark?

Santiago Vega
Guest
Santiago Vega
14 years 5 months ago

In my view, the characteristics of a lovemark don’t quite fit in the fashion industry. In fashion you connect with your customers, and make loyals out of them, by making your brand highly desirable. People are first and foremost VAIN. Emotional connections that are not directly linked to satisfying or enhancing customers’ vanity, will only occupy a distant second place.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Ken Hicks’ description of “loyalty beyond reason” shows why Ken Hicks runs an ad agency. Passion is rarely achieved in retailing. Certainly eBay has it and so does Whole Foods. It will be fun to see whether Saatchi & Saatchi can sustain passion at J.C. Penney, or whether it simply becomes the flavor of the week and is scrapped in 18 months.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 5 months ago

J.C. Penney has a significant challenge to become a Lovemark. However, Ken Hicks has believed for a long time in the need to develop a strong attachment between the brand and the customer, and Penney’s retention of Saatchi is consistent with what Ken has done in the past.

Saatchi, however, can achieve real success for Penney if it elevates the brand attachment well above where it sits today. While Penney has improved its image and moved beyond its somewhat dowdy past, it has yet to really excite customers. I’m sure Ken will be open to creative advertising designed to create that hook connecting customers to the Penney brand.

The challenge, of course, is identifying what about a department store will make customers feel emotional.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 5 months ago
I agree with Jack 100%. A Lovemark strategy can work if and only if every touchpoint generates it and every constituent supports it operationally. As a former agency strategist, I feel strongly that the agency can only affect the communications or “the promise” of a Lovemark and drive action to come experience it. If they create a clear vision on how to execute it at every touchpoint, and JCPenney’s internal teams and myriad of vendors supports it, they may be successful. It will be exciting to watch! From the trenches, I will say that JCPenney has created a slow but powerful buzz with their new products and design approach. I wouldn’t say that this buzz is love-oriented, but it’s strong. I, as well as my friends, didn’t notice it until 3-4 months ago but the products, merchandising and price points are definitely new and impactful. Once you walk in and see it, you want to come back again. They are also getting ready to do a store within a store concept with one of the… Read more »
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