Transformations – too much and too little

JCPThe following is the third of a five-part series from my friend and colleague Perry Seelert. 2013 is a year of change and new opportunities  for Perry – it should be exciting to see these come to life.

From a branding perspective, treating your equities with respect and also with the future in mind is a very fine balancing act. Consumers build a quick impression of who you are and what you are known for, and the trick is to make this DNA credible, relevant, repeatable and fresh. Let’s take two examples from the 2012 holidays.

I spent about 20 minutes chatting with my postman one day during the holidays, and he seemed anxious for the break. He talked about his geographic territory getting bigger, and he apologized for the odd delivery times, which were even coming during the evening hours out of necessity. I really like him, but a career with the U.S. Post Office is fragile at best. I noticed a lot of Christmas and Holiday cards being sent digitally this year (at least more than last), and I see most packages being delivered by UPS and FedEx, as a result of more digital shopping.

The Post Office has lost over $20 Billion since 2007, and it is a transformation that I am afraid will be too little, too late, and where the consumer sees it as bureaucratic, increasingly irrelevant and slow.

But transformations can be too radical from a branding standpoint too, and I look to J.C. Penney or “JCP” as an example of this. OK, so Ron Johnson had to do something, as JCP was known as old, out-of-fashion and conservative. Disrupting the deal-driven nature of its promotional environment, which acted as the prompt for customer count, rips out the traffic. Change the selection, merchandising and advertising imagery so radically that you alienate the older shopper, but in the process, don’t create real credibility with the younger consumer you are courting through the new store experience, and this recipe doesn’t sound so good. It is a transformation that is too severe, and the target consumer doesn’t believe in it.

Transformation too light for the U.S. Post Office, and too strong for J.C. Penney, and in both cases, not successful during 2012 holidays.