JC Penney's apology - too little, too late?

JC Penney recently posted a mea culpa video after unceremoniously determining that there was no pixie dust to be had from its now-former CEO Ron Johnson. I’ve had several people ask me what I think about the video (and the mea culpa) and whether it will achieve the goal. So, I’ll spare you any suspense - I do not think it will and this is why.

The video hits all the right demos, its nicely cut, the VO is warm and friendly. Production is fine. The video looks professional and good. So, what’s the problem you ask? The problem is that the narrator asks people to come back to JC Penney because, “We’ve heard you. And we’d love to see you…” And that single line of dialogue is the entire problem with the video.

Clearly JCP would love to see their customers come back, as would every business hemorraging customers as a result of brand mismanagement. If only getting shoppers into your stores was that easy. And that’s the point. The video owns that JCP didn’t listen to its customers, it offers that it’s heard what the customers had to say… and then it completely avoids saying how JCP has made ANY changes in order to PROVE that it has changed. Don’t believe me? Watch the video (or watch it again) and tell me where it is that JCP actually tells the viewer either, a) how they’ve undone all the wrong things they did; or, b) how they have changed course. In fact, I would challenge you to even tell me what it was that JCP did that pissed its customers off in the first place. Is it that the list is too large? Is it that they don't know?

This video apology is like a drunk professing he’s really sorry and he's going to change but being entirely noncommital when pressed on what exactly he's apologizing for, and how, in fact, he plans to change. And that’s a real problem because JCP broke the promise that its brand represents and violated its customers’ trust in the process. And big shock – the customer moved on because, while JC Penney may need the customer, its customer have realized they don’t need JC Penney.

In the end, I hope I'm wrong. I hope that my harsh assessment is too harsh and that customers who used to shop at Penney's will see this video and be willing to let bygones be bygones... I guess only time will tell.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a note and tell me what you think