15 January 2014

[logo] JCPenney's New Old Logo … Back To The Future

Forward, into the past … just quietly. Easy does it. Back away from the new-style logo change and marketing approach and nobody gets hurt. We'll not talk about this again.

JCPenney is returning to its roots in Helvetica, it would seem. It will be recalled that, back in 2011, they spiffed up their logo to an all-miniscule version that I reviewed positively (and still like). Not long after, in 2012, they changed it to a strange-looking square with an empty middle that carried the JCP trigram in the corner like the union of the US flag. While I appreciated the boldness of the approach, I didn't care too much for the design … I thought the 2011 redesign had nailed it.

In the time since, much has happened at the store once known as The Golden Rule. A new CEO was brought in, Ron Johnson, who had a ton of New Ideas™. Ironically, the same man who'd worked magic at the Apple Store and Target pancaked so hard that to say he merely 'failed' would be gilding the lily, kinda sorta.

Business schools, I'm sure,  are still trying to quantify the degree of fail hard that happened here. The new 'stores within stores', the ending of sales to favor uniformly low prices, all sorts of issues … they not only didn't attract a new constituency, they apparently nearly completely alienated the old one.

So, monumentally, he's out. And, it happens, a lot of the stuff that he tried to do died with him. Some, right away, some others, more slowly. Like the new graphical attitude. I did note, when he flamed out, a lot of that went pretty quickly. Some lingered. The website took a long time to change, but, when I heard that Penney's is rejiggering its store constellation – losing some 33 stores nationwide out of about 1,100 and losing 2,000 employees … it occurred to me that I might take a look at the website.

And here's what I found:

There's the old look. Which wasn't a really bad look, after all; the use of Helvetica and a very simple wordmark kerned hard and just-so proves at least one thing; Helvetica is a timeless font and, at least in the JCPenney context, rather a timeless look.

As Hurricane Ron Johnson impacted, Penney's went from hubris through nemesis to catharsis in what must be record time for American business. Returning to its own past is a smart thing to do here … Penney's may have had an image problem, as far as some might have said. But it wasn't being accused of not working for it.

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