Last week, I was skeptical of the claim that jcpenney would be the most interesting retail brand of the year. This week, I owe them an apology.
In the face of a boycott from One Million Moms – a conservative, “pro-family” group – jcpenney has decided to stand behind its decision to employ Ellen DeGeneres as the company’s new spokesperson. I know it’s only February, but I’m ready to vote this Best Brand Move of the Year.
There Will Always Be Naysayers
If you’re a modern, reasonably hip brand with even a wisp of humor, One Million Moms (OMM) will not like you. (Heaven forbid they see Brandee. Or my casual use of the word “heaven.”) But you know what? Here’s a short list of other things OMM has a major problem with:
- Certain Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors
- Saying “Oh my God” in a Febreze commercial
- Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars
- The “chaos” in the Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign
- The rumor that Howard Stern might be a judge on American Idol
- Painting a boy’s toenails in a J.Crew ad
Sure, the Moms also condemn more serious cultural issues like “Gay Day” at Disneyworld and the It Gets Better Project. And while this blog’s purpose is not to get political, I think there’s an important lesson for all brands in the case of OMM against the United States of Ellen.
Using the V-Word
OMM opposes Ellen as a spokesperson because she “is not a true representation of the type of families that shop at their store.” This statement suggests three things, only one of them remotely true:
- White women do not shop at jcpenneys
- Homosexuals do not shop at jcpenneys
- Talk show hosts do not shop at jcpenneys
OMM also threatens, “By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, jcpenney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years.”
Wait, did jcpenney hire Ellen to head an LGBT initiative? No. They hired her because she’s fun. It probably had less to do with values than the undeniable fact that people like Ellen.
The Branding Masterstroke
In the face of adversity, jcpenney had the bravery and good sense to stand up to OMM – something they failed to do last year.
“Our company was founded 110 years ago on The Golden Rule, which is about treating people fair and square, just like you would like to be treated yourself,” said jcpenney CEO Ron Johnson. “And we think Ellen represents the values of our company and the values that we share.”
And now people are coming out of the woodwork to shop at a store that stands for something, even if it isn’t exactly what they set out to accomplish by naming Ellen spokesperson.
OMM brought torches to burn down the castle. Instead, Ellen and jcpenney have used them to light up the darkness. Bask in its glory:
One Last Thing
Image courtesy of houstonrainbowherald.com