—Ellie Drotning, Graphic Designer
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”.
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.