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Friday, March 16, 2007

Michael Cape On The Brand Promise

"The Brand Promise: Connecting With Your Customer Through Marketing, Store Environment and Online" was the subject of Michael Cape's keynote presentation at the December 2006 TREX show in NYC.

At the time of the presentation, Cape was VP of Brand Marketing for JC Penney. He has since accepted the position of EVP for Old Navy [see 2/26/2007 DDI Magazine article Michael Cape Names Old Navy's EVP Marketing].

Exciting changes have taken place at JC Penney during Cape's tenure: the introduction of Sephora as a store within a store, a pop-up store in Times Square, a successful turnaround and expansion. No wonder he has decided to join Old Navy. Things were probably starting to get boring!

Cape started with the following questions. Notice that each one relates to the CONSUMER, not to the store or products.

1. What does the brand stand for in the heart/mind of the consumer?
2. Is your brand relevant to your customer's life?
3. Does your brand make an emotional connection with your customer? [Get away from brand arrogance and build an emotional connection.]
4. Is your brand an inspiration to you customer?

It boils down to needing to understand the consumer. JC Penney noticed that their men's business was on the upswing, it attracted young people just starting out, their teen business was strong, and their sweet spot consisted of women 35 to 49 who work, with moderate income, a mom, wife, and gatekeeper to the home.

However, it knew very little about the needs and wants of these customers, their ambitions, their sources of inspiration. To better understand its consumers and relate the brand essence to their lives, JC Penney needed to develop a 2-way dialog.

Inspired by Saatchi's Kevin Roberts, Cape set out to understand "how the lion hunts in the jungle", or in other words to live with the customer and go places with her.

Next, his group conducted a gap analysis to understand how the existing brands aligned with her life [work, home, social, family, romantic, life/beauty, casual, busy, life's special occasions...] and determine if JC Penney was truly serving her, and helping her to live her best life ever. In so doing, JC Penney realized that it didn't have a position around life/beauty and addressed that through the introduction of Sephora within the JC Penney Store.

JC Penney's Mission became to offer her attainable style through any of 3 shopping channels [store, catalog, online].

Again referring to Kevin Roberts and his book Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands, Cape discussed the power of Emotion in leading to action [compared to reason which leads to conclusion or justification]. At the center of Lovemarks is a grid plotting hi/lo respect against hi/lo love. The quadrant to own [i.e., the lovemark space which JC Penney decided to pusue] is hi love/hi respect or "a brand I identify with, a brand known for something I care passionately about". [Read this post by Roberts titled Starbucks Coffee Break.]

With that in mind, which are the emotional milestones that the JC Penney customer reaches? A wedding, a baby, a new home, a new job.... All important opportunities for relating the brand essence to that consumer's life.

And don't forget that all touch points shape customer perceptions: the merchandise, store experience, associates interactions, social responsibility, on-line, convenience [reminds me of David Polinchock's advice in Brand Experience Lab's Experience Manifesto].

JC Penney implemented these learnings in the Spring 2006 with the launch of the largest brand campaign in the 104 history of JCPenney, using new techniques [living ads online], and fully integrating the campaign across multiple platforms, including its hispanic programs and its first ever sponsorship of the AcademyAwards, all coordinated in-store. The tagline "It's All Inside" accurately captured confidence, trendiness at a smart price, and that the consumer has a friend in JCP.

On 3/3/06, JC Penney introduced a pop-up store in NYC in Times Square; it stayed open for only 24 days. They successfully retooled the space in 8 days [!], and held a gala event with their design partners. The event was extremely successful [stock price increased significantly as a result], announcing to the world the new JC Penney. [See JC Penney sells with an attitude by Mindy Fetterman, USA TODAY. It's a great article with lots of info about Penney's strategy including Get more customers; Expand off-mall; Update at the mall; Make Web shopping easier and more seamless; Get more wallet-share.]

The media attention provided 3rd party endorsements [and the equivalent of $6m in advertising] and energetically showcased JC Penney's key points of difference [unique, private designer brands], that JC Penney had reached a major milestone [JCP.com passed $1B in sales], and demonstrated strong brand momentum.

Cape then discussed other exciting focus areas within JC Penney:

- The bridal gift registry - a key point of entry especially for new customers. 90% of those who register are brand new to JCP and outspend existing customers. The registry has a strong viral quality, combined with emotion/romance that they have played on with witty copy and valuable advice for bridal showers. They offer a wedding planner, a magazine and a catalog. It's easy to do, available online and in Spanish. [See J.C. Penney courts brides to boost business by Nicole Maestri from 1/23/07 in Reuters.]

- Huge Home Business! ~$2B/year made unique through the association with Chris Madden, an authoritative source of inspiration for the home. JC Penney created its first pop-up store in Rockefeller Center [see Stores Are Popping Up from August 01, 2004 by RoxAnna Sway] to introduce the breadth of its home collection.

- Teens/kids/young adults especially at Back-to-School when kids drive traffic. JC Penney again focused on touch points important to this audience: mtv, video/music awards, competition to be VJ for VMA insider [did live TV commercials, broke some rules, fun!]. [See Penney's Back-to-School Campaign Integrates Social, Rich Media.] The competition became a platform event, integrated with broadcast, on line, magazine, publicity, preprint, store environment, and even a mall tour.

Cape repeatedly emphasized the criticality of delivering on the brand promise within the store environment. The store entrance should display ceremony and tie into the rest of the brand experience; all brand elements within the store [e.g., light fixtures, the red cube, and 3 different ways to shop] should tie into the campaign. And, don't forget that in-store displays absolutely influence consumers!

Interestingly, JC Penney's cash-wrap area allows consumers to access all of its offerings online. Their focus has truly been to make the online experience seamless with the in-store experience.

He brought up key punctuation points: fitting rooms offer chairs with plasma screen tvs for entertainment; common imagery; a common store profile; a dynamic store enviroment... The Sephora Salon has increased the number of visits to the store and has created a WOW! effect.

Cause marketing remains an important way to connect with the JC Penney core consumer - a mom, whose most important concern is her kids. Not only it is important to be a good corporate citizen, but it also matters to building an emotional connection between the brand and consumers. JC Penney realized that 14 million kids have nowhere to go after shcool and established in 2001 a fund to address this, and created events to raise awareness and funding. For example, it held a JC Penney JAM concert for America's Kids. Tickets and the dvd/cd recording generated proceeds to support the fund. [See JC Penney Press Release.]

Cape closed his presentation by quoting Guillaume Apollinaire:
Come to the edge. No we'll fall.
Come to the edge. No we can't.
Come to the edge. No we're afraid.
And they came And he pushed them And they flew...

Cape certainly demonstrated flying at JC Penney. As his Old Navy adventure begins, I expect that he will not only fly, but soar!

I join Retail Design Diva in wishing Michael Cape the very best at Old Navy [see Can Old Navy Become New Navy?].

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