Why J.C. Penney’s New Strategy Won’t Work

April 2013 Communication 1 Comment

A few months ago I reported on a visit to J.C. Penney and commented on my disappointment with the look and feel of the store. What I saw was CEO Ron Johnson’s new strategy. The basis of this strategy is a return to the roots of the company through its “Fair and Square Every Day” philosophy. The problem with this strategy is that it is, in the words of Wharton Professor George S. Day, an “inside-out” strategy instead of an “outside-in” approach.


“If there is a Volkswagen Way, it is to be determined, diligent and attentive to detail, with a glint of ruthlessness.” VW conquers the world, The Economist (July 7, 2012).

  1. Every firm has different goals and needs.  Don’t try to emulate Google’s strategy; create a better one.
  2. There is no one silver-bullet fix for every company.  Become the Grand Canyon, not the Köprü Dam.
  3. Thinking outside the box is great, just make sure you’re still connecting all the lines.
  4. Your team has to be on the same page.  If your marketers have a different vision than your salesforce, the result is chaos.
  5. However brilliant your ideas are, if your customers don’t buy in, they aren’t smart ones.
  6. If you don’t know what your customers want, ask them.