I had heard of a new CEO listening tour but to me, this was a first. JCPenny is running a social media Apology tour. We’ve all heard CEOs apologize for one thing or another and we’ve all worked in companies where a new CEO visits different employee facilities to meet and greet and hear what is on people’s minds. But JCPenny now has a new campaign on TV that apologizes for letting customers down and thanks them for coming back. If you recall, the former CEO Ron Johnson from Apple fame was booted out when his plan failed, possibly because of the elimination of coupons which drove customers into the store. The former CEO, Myron Ullman, was asked to return and now they are in recovery mode. The two ads say:
“It’s no secret. Recently, J.C. Penney changed. Some changes you liked, and some you didn’t. But what matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing: to listen to you. To hear what you need to make your life more beautiful. Come back to J.C. Penney. We heard you. Now we’d love to see you.”
“At J.C. Penney, we never stop being amazed by you. How you work so hard without looking like you do. How you make every dollar stretch so far and keep your family so close. So we brought back the things you like about J.C. Penney, gave you new things to explore and now, we’re happy to say, you’ve come back to us. We’re speechless, except for two little words. Thank you.”
But back to social media….using the hashtag #jcplistens, JCPenny is in response overdrive from what I saw on Twitter today. They are in constant contact with its Twitter-ites. Every customer or tweet seems to get a personal and speedy response asking to help out, mentioning they will share the feedback with the team if something was amiss and thanking customers for comments. As pointed out on Business Insider, they even told people when they were retiring for the evening. On its Facebook page, JCPenny is polling fans about their favorite brands that they want back after having been cut by the former CEO. And it looks like they are bringing back St. John’s Bay, a favorite. So they are listening hard.
You’ve got to hand to them. They’re trying. And social apology tours are a smart redemption move.
“So a critical question for business leaders now is how to manage in that environment — specifically, what must be managed for change, and what must be managed for continuity, if we’re to be admired in 30 years? The answer seems clear. Products, services, and strategies must be managed for change, faster all the time. Their life expectancies are shrinking. Brand and culture must be managed for continuity. Look at the three old-timers on today’s list…They possess arguably the strongest brands on earth, and all have titanium-strength cultures.”
He is so right….strong brands and culture and of course, leadership (goes without saying) make for the best reputations.
I love this list!
I was taking a look at the new Harris Poll RQ study that was released this week. Reputations of U.S. companies are always important to review in order to see how companies or sectors are improving while others are declining. The survey has some reptuational nuggets worth sharing here.
This year, 16% of the U.S. public said that the reputation of corporate America was improving, an increase of 7% over one year earlier. That is positive news despite the fact that 49% of consumers say it is declining. That is not a surprise because trust in business has reached its lowest depths over the past few years of economic decline. But it is a good sign that reputations are making somewhat of a comeback.
But what really has left me thinking twice is not the finding that Amazon.com is the most highly reputable company in America this year, a notch above Apple. What has me in a state of awesome disbelief is that Amazon earned nearly 100% positive ratings on all measures related to Trust and that among Americans who have discussed Amazon with their family and friends, nearly 100% of these conversations were positive about the online retailer. I have rarely, if ever, seen a company ever get that close to 100%. I’ve been conducting research for a long long time and this is an amazing feat. 100% satisfaction! A rarity.
The Harris Poll also found that more than 60% of consumers say that they now “proactively try to learn more about how a company conducts itself” before they consider buying that company’s products and services. Again, the world of reputation is seriously changing when people care this much about a company’s treatment of employees, customers and communities. Values are increasingly playing a greater role in reputational perceptions and this market force is only going to continue. Mark my words.
An article in the New York Times on purpose-marketing echos my firm belief that the company behind the brand matters more than ever. In fact, Stuart Elliott says it himself: “Purpose marketing is becoming popular on Madison Avenue because of the growing number of shoppers who say that what a company stands for makes a difference in what they do and do not buy.” These socially conscious buyers are avid researchers and they know whether the companies behind the products they are considering treat their employees well, have high quality products and are well-led. The article is about Panera’s new advertising campaign that is based on the company’s core values — “Live consciously. Eat deliciously.” Has a nice ring to it.
Take a quick look at our research on the company behind the brand for hard evidence that corporate and product reputations are blending. Perhaps I should coin a new phrase called reputation-marketing to join the marketing folks who now call reputation-building campaigns with a conscience purpose-marketing. Just about a year ago, I wrote a proposal for some new business and dubbed it reputation with a purpose. Has a nice ring to it too!
I mentioned this new survey on reputation from McKinsey on my blog a few weeks back but what I did not mention was how perplexed I was by the artwork they chose in the report. This is not to knock the great work they do but to raise the question about why they would not question artwork of men saluting each other when it comes to a serious business topic. I know that they regularly use this artist and look in their reports but I flipped through the pages to see if there was a mirror image with a woman or two in it. There was none. And I realize that this harkens back to an earlier style when men ruled the business suite. I understand the style because I saw plenty of it while at Fortune and still love the look. Yet, all in all, I was surprised that they chose this image when we have a paucity of female CEOs and women at the top. Women are getting ahead but glacially so. And in defense of women, women are already adding value to the reputations of some of our largest, most prestigious corporations.
A new study was just released called the Champion Brand Index from APCO, another PR Firm. It caught my interest because it ties corporate reputation to sales which we all know to be true. The survey was conducted among 10,000 consumers around the world. If you follow my work, you know that we also examined the link between corporate and brand reputation in our Company behind the Brand research. The Champion Brand Index found similar strong ties between the two and I am happy to report them here in defense of the indivisibility today between the corporate and brand reputation:
- 40% of respondents say they decided not to buy a company’s products or service because they did not agree with the company’s practices, policies or activities
- 77% of respondents believe that corporations have a greater impact on their lives today than 10 years ago
- Nearly half say that global companies have a bigger impact on their lives than the government
- 67% say that it is as important to know how a company operates as it is to know what it sells
Good stats for continuing to make the case that corporate and product brand reputation are increasingly one and the same today with the vast penetration of the Internet and globalization shrinking the world. The fact that over three-quarters of consumers notice how corporations have become tabletalk in our lives is a good one to save.
I could tell that it must have been the one year anniversary of the Costa Concordia because I started hearing about the shipliner crash in the past few days. Reputations keep rolling along throughout the year but especially hit home one year later. Whereas they might be fleeting memories at first, they all come together on the year one anniversary to make us take notice. Today I started hearing more about the memorial service for survivors and families of those who lost their 32 dear ones in Giglio, Italy and it started to stick more than two days ago. There were 846,000 mentions on Google when I searched for Costa Concordia anniversary today.
For reputation, one year anniversaries are part of the reputation process. It is almost like it fits into the five stages of grief. The one year anniversay is a day of reflection and return to the reputation demise that caused the loss in the first place. All the pictures of the cruise ship on its side off the shores of the little Tuscan city are back in view. Debates over raising the ship and removing it are back in the news. Anniversaries are important because they remind us that reputations should not restored overnight. The bigger the loss (especially when lives are lost), the longer reputation takes to repair. That should be law.
I especially remember the Costa Concordia because we were launching our survey on how corporate and brand reputations have become nearly indivisible. The parent company of the cruise liner pushed media requests over to the Costa Concordia CEO — the brand leader — in an effort to disentangle the corporate reputation from the brand reputation. Due to the ease of information flow and the Internet’s reach, much of the media coverage mentioned the parent company in the coverage which only proved that corporate and brand reputations have definitely converged. Because the entire incident happened just as we launched the survey, it is forever lodged in my mind.
Talking about reputation, tomorrow’s Oprah Winfrey interview with cyclist Lance Armstrong will be another one for the record books. I am not sure how Lance’s confession that he used drugs to help him win the Tour de France several times will go over. My sense is that an apology might not curb his rapid reputation decline and Lance’s reputation might not just keep rolling along but might face a hard stop for awhile. No telling where it will be, however, in three or four years. I will be interested to tune in and watch.
I had heard alittle about some reputation problems (tax avoidance) that Starbucks had encountered in the U.K. over the past couple of months and just read this story about how they are working to counter their dip in reputational equity with a little frothy promotional offering. Now until mid-February, they are discounting coffees on Mondays to earn back customers’ trust and show that they are sorry. I was particularly enamored of this advertising campaign which is fun, clever, positive and should definitely help. It qualifies as a reputation recovery uplift.
It seems like every year I hear that Chinese brands and their reputations will be going global. Apparently The Economist thinks that 2013 is the year that Chinese brands will truly go global. Their reasoning is that Chinese companies have grown as big as they can in their own country and now need to expand overseas markets. A second reason is that Chinese companies are now longer just B2B ones but are now competing with brands that are B2C that develop dynamic marketing campaigns and require different campaigns. Some of these brands that we will be introduced to in 2013 are Baidu, Haier, Tencent, and Metersbonwe. Other reasons that Chinese companies are finally going to go global include seriously building global cultures as Lenovo has and making sure that corporate entities include product names that are less complex and more recognizable. As the article says, Jianlibao which is an energy drink, had trouble expanding beyond Chinas because its name was hard to pronounce. Try Wanxiang.
Global Chinese company reputations won’t be easy to build regardless of how much muscle they put behind them. There is a well-entrenched perception in other regions that Chinese companies produce low quality products and are poorly governed. William Brent, a colleague of mine who helps run our Emergent China practice, was quoted in this Economist article as saying that “2013 will mark the year when Chinese multinationals come face to face with transparency.” He is right. Corporate governance is a driver of strong reputations.
If this is the year of Chinese reputations, I look forward to it.
It is that time of the year. Last day of 2012 and the start of a new 2013. I posted an article to Huffington Post on what I see ahead by looking backward at reputation trends bubbling up and trends on the vast horizon. Here is the post if you want to settle into the new year with a clear lenses on reputation possibilities.
Wishing you a happy new year!