Posts Tagged: jcpenney

Jun 16

Heroes of simplicity: Ron Johnson

My new book, Think Simple, will be published on June 7th. While my previous book focused on the power of simplicity as practiced by Steve Jobs and Apple, the new one goes further. I sought out more than 40 practitioners of simplicity in a range of companies around the world. Here’s one of them…

ronjohnsonIf you follow Apple, you probably know the Ron Johnson story. He’s the guy Steve Jobs brought in when he decided that Apple needed a retail presence.

Steve was impressed with Ron’s resume. After all, Ron was the guy who transformed Target from a fledgling department store to something more contemporary. He turned it into a cooler place to shop.

So Ron put together a team and worked with Steve to develop the Apple Store concept, and he credits the success of the stores to the power of simplicity. I spent a morning with Ron talking about the days when the Apple Store was just a germ of an idea.

He explained that a clear mission is an essential element of simplicity, and so the first order of business was creating a mission for the Apple Stores. It was wonderfully stark: “Enhance lives.”

That’s what Apple products were about, and the Apple Stores would be the place where customers come face-to-face with the Apple brand.

When a company has a simple mission, decisions come easy. Continue reading →

Dec 13

JCPenney: forward to the past!

JCP has apparently taken down links to this spot. Click here to view on

Recently, I saw the above ad for JCPenney — the launch of its big new holiday campaign. Just days later, I saw an article entitled JCPenny On An Express Train To Oblivion.

That headline pretty well summed up my reaction to the commercial. It also got me thinking about JCP’s current course in context of its history.

So, for you marketing enthusiasts, here’s my JCP story. It’s loaded with the things we love about this business: drama, crushed dreams, out-of-control egos and unintentional comedy. Continue reading →

Apr 13

Ron Johnson: a great plan with a fatal flaw

Ron Johnson’s exit at jcpenney this week wasn’t exactly huge news to those who’d been watching the company fall off a cliff in 2012. Boards tend to notice when the losses start approaching the one-billion-dollar mark.

Now we get a deluge of analyses from retail experts and amateurs alike. I would only remind you of one basic rule of life:

Don’t believe everything you read.

I’ve been surprised at how many articles either misunderstand the retail industry or conveniently misplace the facts about the challenges facing jcp.

So what the heck, I’ll throw in my two cents as well. I didn’t work for jcp, but as some of you know, I was involved in the jcp advertising that ran on the Oscars this year and last.

To better appreciate how and why Ron failed, you have to go back to the beginning.

Ron became CEO of jcp after a long period of courtship. He was being recruited to be on the board by investor and board member William Ackman. Ron’s great successes in retail (Target, Apple) and fresh point of view were seen as a breath of fresh air. And boy, did jcp ever need that. Continue reading →

Feb 13

Meanwhile, over at Ron Johnson’s place…

It’s been 15 months since Ron Johnson left Apple to become CEO at jcpenney.

If you go by the numbers, things aren’t going all that well. If you go by the vision, it’s a different story entirely.

During the Oscars, jcpenney ran six commercials that lay the framework for the transformation in progress.

(At this point, I must bare all and confess that I was part of the creative team for this work. But don’t let that stop you from blasting away at me if you disagree.)

The “Anthem” commercial above is a 90-second letter to America. Basically, it says that jcpenney knows who you are and what makes you tick, and is devoted to helping make your life a bit better — as it has been for over a hundred years.

This is jcp’s “stake in the ground,” much as Think different was Apple’s stake in the ground when it began its transformation. Continue reading →

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?