Yesterday, as most of you all probably noticed, JC Penney issued this apologetic ad saying they were sorry. They're new brand mantra is taking time to listen. Not listen in the way that social media-ish people like me talk about as part of a "good social strategy." Listening has become part of their overall brand voice and tone. Yesterday, I even tweeted about the new ad and garnered a response from the brand:
@drewhawkins Please feel free to share your feedback. We are listening.
— jcpenney (@jcpenney) May 1, 2013
If you were to go and look at their Twitter feed, you would see hundreds of personalized responses acknowledging misteps, suggestions and ways they can make people happy. Here are a few things I like about this initiative.
JC Penney has had a terrible year. It's not a secret. Shoot, it's hit the news. They haven't had a major scandal or unethical behavior...just very poor stock and administrative performance. Lots of changes were made that tipped the apple cart of a lot of their brand ambassadors. Instead of trying yet another rebrand, JC Penney is effectively hitting the reset button. I've noticed that people are more likely to forgive a person - or a brand - if they're open and transparent about saying "we've messed up." The brand didn't try and sweep the last year under the rug...but they are trying to put the past behind them.
A lot of times, you'll see a brand communicate one way in traditional mediums but then another way on social. JC Penney's voice and tone via social accurately reflected how they were communicating through the ad. They appeared heartfelt and at least made the impression that they were actually listening.
Who knows how this will ultimately affect the brand overall? I think many shoppers will be willing to give them a second chance. This tactic of hitting restart could be effective...but it's a tactic they'll only be able to pull off once. The onus is on JC Penney to deliver on their second chance promises. I doubt they'd be able to recover from another downturn with a similar approach.
JC Penney says that it's listening for feedback and incorporating what people want. It's impossible to please everyone all the time, especially on the internet, so the brand will likely step on some toes along the way. However, JCP is willing to give it a try - and that's as good a start as any.