Jan 12

Ron Johnson tries the Apple magic at JCP

When Ron Johnson left Apple several months ago, there was an audible gasp from the Apple community.

After all, Ron was one of Steve Jobs’s most important hires — the man who created the Apple Stores from scratch and led their amazing growth. It’s not like that was his first gig, either. Before that, Ron was the guy who gave Target its cool.

So it was a big blow to Apple when Ron left after 11 stellar years. And it was a big wow for JCPenney when Ron signed on as their new CEO.

For many, Ron’s move was a disconnect. Why would someone jump from the world’s coolest retail store to a stodgy department store chain?

Well, you’re about to find out. Today is the day that Ron, after less than three months on the job, unveils his plans to turn JCPenney into … well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

Ron’s big day starts out with a two-page ad in major papers (above). This is his Think different moment, where he puts forth the philosophy that will guide JCPenney under his leadership.

The details will be revealed during a series of presentations today in New York. But from firsthand experience, I can testify that when Ron talks about what makes a great shopping experience, you start believing.

Either a bit of that old distortion field rubbed off on him, or he really is a retail genius. I’m thinking the latter.

If it sounds like I’m a Ron fan, you’re absolutely right. Ron is a genuinely good guy with serious smarts and a ton of energy. I didn’t want to taint this story up front, but I’ve been sneaking about in the background helping Ron’s team — starting with today’s “In praise of fresh air” ad. (Design credit goes to Michael Rylander, who, by the way, runs a really cool design-centric blog.)

So now, after I’ve critiqued many other people’s ads here, I am ready to be judged. Just try to keep it civil, okay?

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  1. Fair enough, Ken. Hope you don’t mind me being a bit skeptical. I appreciate and respect your insight to the industry. And your blog has a prominent place in my Bookmark Bar.

  2. Two criticisms:

    1. The title seems out of place. For me, the text works (and works better) without it. The “fresh air” in the third stanza speaks for itself; the title sets up a clumsy repetition. Also, the title visually disrupts the outdent/indent rhythm. If you needed a bold line at the top, “This year, we turn 110″ would be the right choice. I’m not sure you do need a bold line up there, though.

    2. Speaking of clumsy repetition, “Fair and square” and “And it won’t stop there” rhyme in an otherwise unrhymed composition.

    Other than that, I like it. A lot. It reminds me of Saturn in its early days.

  3. @Chris:
    Thanks. And your skepticism is always welcome here.

  4. The right half should have been black on white.

  5. I believe jcpenney is doing the right thing. Fair and square is very much needed and will bring customers back.

  6. Anthony Butler

    2) A good point… when looking at the Apple Store and retail experience, people often forget that the people responsible for staging that experience are first and foremost users and fans of Apple’s products… Good luck JCP finding 10,000 people that excited about a pair of pleated khakis.

  7. Actually, one major retailer has successfully turned around — Target. And the two guys responsible for the rebirth of Target are now leading JCP. Never say never…

  8. It’s truly amazing how much faith can ride on the shoulders of just a few people in such a broad scope of things. Yes he was a valuable asset to Apple. But, many times they are just icons in the collective. Yet so much monetarily is resting on the the outcomes of just a few souls.

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