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J.C. Penney ad campaign asks its customers to come back

J.C. Penney wants its customers back, and has

J.C. Penney wants its customers back, and has started an our-fault campaign to win back those who knew its stock and loved its sales. (April 9, 2013) Credit: AP

J.C. Penney is sorry and it wants your business back.

That's the gist of its latest ad campaign, a public "mea culpa" which the midpriced department-store put on its YouTube and Facebook pages.

The ad, titled "It's no secret," shows shots of women working, playing with their children and doing other everyday activities.

"Recently J.C. Penney changed," a voice-over states. "Some changes you liked, and some you didn't. But what matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you."

The ad comes after the Plano, Texas-based company last month fired its chief executive, Ron Johnson, after 17 months on the job and rehired his predecessor, Mike Ullman.

Johnson's ambitious changes included getting rid of most sales and bringing in new, hip brands. The strategy was designed to attract younger, wealthier shoppers in a bid to reinvent the stodgy retailer, but it alienated Penney's loyal customers and caused sales to plummet.

The ad acknowledges the missteps and asks customers to return to its stores.

"Come back to J.C. Penney. We heard you, now we'd love to see you," the voice-over states.

The TV spot is in contrast with the chain's "fair and square" advertising campaign that accompanied Johnson's revamp. Those ads were colorful and whimsical and did not give specifics about products.

The new spot buys the company some time, but the hard part is next: telling customers what specific changes they're making, said Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates in Manhattan.

"When you are in a free fall, you sometimes need to call a timeout and say, 'Wait a second. We're going to get this under control,' " he said. "The answer may be further down the road as to why they come back."

Penney shares had risen 45 cents to $16.65 at midmorning Thursday. They fell 22 cents Wednesday to close at $16.20.

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