Feb 29

jcpenney, You Wore Me Down, Now I’ll Wear You.

When I hear a well-known brand has redesigned its mark, I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. For a graphic designer with a particular penchant for logos and branding, a new logo is like a gift I can’t wait to tear open. But when I got my first look at J. C. Penney Corp., Inc.’s new logo, I was disappointed. If I had been a four-year-old, I’d have been wearing a big ol’ pouty face.

I don’t understand why the friendly, familiar name of JCPenney is gone, replaced by a set of cold, impersonal initials: jcp. Nor do I understand the American-flag imagery. Nothing about this brand, its products or services is any more patriotic than any other American company, but this logo screams “America!” With the new CEO, Ron Johnson (a former Apple Inc. and Target executive) and the new president, Michael Francis (fresh from his last position as CMO of Target) at the helm, I was hoping for a little more cleverness and sophictication. My designer-ly prejudices took over and I decided the reinvented jcpenney (or should I call it jcp?) had not won me over.

Then Ellen Degeneres made her appearance. As you’ve probably heard, jcpenney chose Ellen as spokesperson for their reinvented brand. Shortly after, a group called One Million Moms began demanding the company fire Ellen because she’s a lesbian. One Million Moms is a fairly small advocacy group, so I did not expect jcpenney to cave to that demand. But I did expect them to try downplay the controversy. That’s not what happened.

Instead, Johnson went on the CBS Morning News and unapologetically stood by Ellen and jcpenney’s decision to hire her, saying that keeping her was a “no-brainer”.

And Ellen opened her show with a heartfelt and of course, funny, thank you to jcpenney and her fans for their support.

Clearly, defending Ellen was a business decision, because really, who doesn’t love Ellen? (Other than One Million Moms). So sticking by her is good for business. But in this case, a business decision was also a values-based decision that, personally, I support. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I can’t help but feel a connection to a brand when it stands up for values I share. So even though that new logo makes the designer inside me pout, jcpenney’s conduct makes the citizen inside me smile.

Designers like me can self-importantly imagine that the logo is the most important part of a brand. And while it is a critical piece of the brand-puzzle, this chain of events reminded me that the most important piece of a brand is, in fact, the company itself. Duh, Ellie. Sometimes we all need reminders.

Jcpenney’s new logo might not have won me over, but their actions sure did.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head over to jcpenney and pick up a new pair of slippers.


Orginally written for and posted on Duets Blog.


Also discussed on Ron Coleman’s Liklihood of Confusion® blog on trademark, copyright, Internet law and free speech.

Apr 23

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” — i forget who.



Apr 22




Apr 20

“Don’t do it original, do it right” — Stefan Sagmeister

Brands Are People Too.

We’re human. We’re social creatures. We surround ourselves with those who share our interests, values, passions and goals. With these people, we make connections, share stories, exchange knowledge, and gain a a sense of community. This is how we build our social circles.

Social circles, obviously, include people. But they also include groups, organization, and even… ta da! Brands! Brands fit so nicely into our social circles, because, well, they’re a heck of like lot people. Let me explain.

Brands are like people because...

1) They each have their own distinct personality.

Remember when your mom told you that you were special, just like each snowflake is special? Brands should be like that.

2) They need to be honest and real.

Nobody trusts a brand that’s as phony as a fake-tanned-fake-nail-wearing-fake-bottle-blonde-with-fake…you-know-whats.

3) And people do judge them by their cover.

(A nice, clean-cut, baseball-playing fellow shouldn’t wear studded, leather jackets with fringe. He might attract the wrong crowd.)

4) They can’t force people to like them. They have to find their crowd.

If someone came up to you and said, “Hey! You’re gonna be my friend starting… NOW! Take me out to lunch!”, you’d probably call the cops real quick. It’s the same with brands. They don’t choose people. People choose them.

Who we are defines the brands we choose. Not vice versa. That’s why it’s so important to create good branding that connects with people. Every brand wants to find customer; and a customer somewhere wants to find them too. They’re both looking for their niche. Their crowd. Their social circle.

(This entry was written as part of my OLSON O-Tern application.)