JCPenney Goes Casual

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Have you been to the mall lately? If you are like many Americans, JCPenney will be a part of that trip. JCPenney, also called “Penney’s,” is one of those stores that is present in almost every suburban shopping mall in the United States. Soon you will be seeing a new retail logo design on the ubiquitous store, a logo that the company hopes will give the corporation a more contemporary, upscale brand.

The new logo keeps many of the most recognizable elements of the old one. Red color—check. Friendly, round, yet somewhat generic Helvetica font—check. Square shape incorporated into the logo design—check. If the goal was to change the logo without actually changing much, the new JCPenney logo design is a winner.

All kidding aside, there are several key differences between the old logo and the new one. First, the new logo feels a little more modern—just a little—than the former one. Also, the red box that encloses the logo design has been shrunk so that it encloses only the first three letters. You could interpret this as ‘breaking out of the box’ or simply as another version of the Gap debacle. It’s really a matter of taste.

The JCPenney name has been split up so that the first three letters are inside the box with the rest trailing. This is interesting because it may be leading up to a change in name for the brand in the future. Are they trying to get us to call the retail corporation “JCP”? It’s hard to say. JCP has a more modern sound that may be more appealing to modern customers while shedding some of the JCPenney baggage. On the other hand, not all of that ‘baggage’ is negative.

Interestingly, this logo design came apart as part of a contest, which is not usually the best route for corporate logo design. However, this contest was restricted to a select few design agencies and schools as well as the company’s shop associates. The winner was a third-year design student from University of Cincinnati. It’s a little unusual for a company with $17.8 billion in revenue to play it thrifty on branding and logo design services, so other business will likely be watching to see how this new identity pans out. However, this is quite a high profile job for the young designer’s portfolio.

JCpenney has been through more brands than most retail establishments, in part to stay in touch with the changing times over the almost 110 years that the store has been in business. While we wish that this new logo design had a little more creative flair, it is a somewhat bland, suburban logo for a somewhat bland, suburban store.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

Many retail stores are changing logo design and brand right now to maximize their market share and maintain a tenuous hold on their profit margin. Whether you are large or small, branding is an essential part of marketing your business successfully.