September 26, 2011
I’m sure most of you have heard of the recent instance of JC Penney’s new line-up of T-shirts, which landed the brand on the RidicuList (http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2011/09/01/ac-ridiculist-jcpenney.cnn). The story is worth attention as it tackles three important elements that a big brand, such as JC Penney should have given better consideration: 1. Brand image 2. Corporate social responsibility 3. And at a later stage: issue/crisis management We’ve seen that JC Penney seems to have ignored all three elements and while we are still watching to see how they will clear things up, we can learn lessons about how big brands should “care more”. They need to care more not only about the society in which they do business, but also about doing business in a smarter way to ensure that they don’t make any more mistakes. It’s not all about the attractive new designs. When launching a new line of T-shirts for the ‘back to school’ season, a designer should think how this would attract customers and improve their brand image. More carefully considered text on the T-shirts could have made them bestsellers in clever ways. T-shirt text along the lines of…, “I might not be the best in Maths but Einstein wasn’t either” or “I never scream, I’m patient and good looking…everyone tells me that I should be a teacher”, might have helped. The ‘back to school’ season is one of the times of the year when it should be easy for a retailer to show their commitment to society, but JC Penney managed to achieve the exact opposite. After the T-shirt story had broken and had everyone talking about it, a company spokesperson told ABC news, “We’re reaching out to our customers who are unhappy to apologize and to let them know that the T-shirt is no longer available”. This was a very weak response as the story was all over the web and nothing significant was done to counter the negative coverage which had been created. A big brand with more than one thousand stores should have been more careful and aimed to avoid such negative coverage. As an example of a better way to maintain brand image, Jacky’s Electronics, an Action UAE client and a UAE retailer with 9 stores in the country, worked hard during the summer to be involved in Dubai Care’s charity campaign – ‘Girls’ Education Campaign 2011’. The charity aims to increase awareness and funds to enable girls in poorer countries to be educated, thus improving their lives and empowering them to play effective roles in society.