Data Intelligence from Online Listening Uncovers JC Penney Back-To-School Consumer Perceptions
In 2011, Ron Johnson was appointed as the new CEO of JC Penney based on his impressive performances at Target and Apple. Johnson attempted to reinvent the brand by introducing fair everyday low prices and cutting coupons and sales. He also tried to attract customers with offers such as free haircuts for kids. Although Johnson was hired to revitalize the brand, sales and stock prices plunged under his leadership.
After firing Johnson in April of 2013, JC Penney is trying to learn from their mistakes. They began this process with a strong performance in the 2013 back-to-school season. As an 84 billion dollar retail season, back-to-school is a vital time for retailers. JC Penney faces tough competition as retailers continue to advertise earlier in the season and develop their brands as both affordable and trendy. As we have analyzed before, retailers like Kohl’s, Target, and Walmart are all competing to attract consumers with back-to-school advertising and deals.
Last year, JC Penney returned to a coupon and sale heavy advertising strategy as they hope to attract customers as they buy school clothing. JC Penney also created new offers to attract customers to their stores with $25 prescription eyeglasses and $10 haircuts for kids.
While JC Penney’s back-to-school performance exhibited signs of progress for the still struggling retailer, improving future performance relies on understanding what strategies resonated with consumers and which ones didn’t. As JC Penney and competitors plan for the 2014 season, should they use the same strategies or take another tack?
Primary analysis shows that consumer conversation about JC Penney’s campaign during the back-to-school season, from July to September, consists of over 5,000 relevant posts and 93% are positive. Special offers were promoted in order to entice customers to come to JC Penney and made up the majority of the conversation. Other efforts including coupons and sales also contributed to positive conversation although they made up a smaller proportion of the commentary.
While retailers rush to be the first to begin advertising for the back to school season, it is unclear if this improves performance. Consumer conversation appears to increase at the end of July and was strongest during the month of August.
JC Penney TV commercials received mixed reviews because of music selection and message. One commercial received heated criticism for implying that students need the right clothes to have a successful school year. However, 9% of total conversation responded positively to the commercials and only 3% responded negatively.
Popular hashtags played an important role in JC Penney’s campaign including #firstdaylook and #glamcrowd. Generally, the conversation was largely focused on back-to-school shopping, kids, and the campaign hashtags.
Affinities analysis helps to determine who is talking about JC Penney’s back-to-school campaign. Interestingly, it appears as though parents are discussing the campaign rather than students. People who discuss the campaign are 57 times more likely to be interested in parenting than the overall Twitter population and these consumers are also more likely to talk about being a mom and being a dad. Interestingly. People conversing about JC Penney are also 35 times more likely to be discussing deals than the rest of Twitter, suggesting that they are also looking for bargains.
Topics that are frequently discussed by teens like popular media are surprisingly absent in the JC Penney discussion. For example, those involved in the campaign conversation are half as likely to be talking about musical groups such as One Direction and Justin Bieber as well as popular topics like Nickelodeon and Instagram.
It appears as though JC Penney’s campaign inspired conversation by attracting parents with special back-to-school offers and coupons. Hashtags and commercials also helped to keep the conversation focused and promoted JC Penney as the place to buy affordable clothes.
Affinities suggests that JC Penney could reach and engage a new market segment by design marketing that attracts teens and adolescents. Incorporating popular culture into their advertising and branding may be one way to encourage increased conversation in younger demographics. Starting advertising later in the summer and focusing spending towards branding and lifestyle interests is one way that JC Penney can create a more efficient and successful marketing strategy.
For more social insights into how retailers can use social intelligence to learn the strengths and weaknesses of past campaigns as well as how to gain deeper understanding into holiday ad campaign strategies, download our ad campaign effectiveness case study: Assessing Black Friday Advertising Campaign Effectiveness.