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Branding: More Than Skin Deep

You can’t just pay a fancy designer to come up with a logo and a whole lot of slick marketing collateral and hope everything will turn out for the best. If you want it to have meaning for your consumer it has to go to the very heart of your business.

When JCPenney decided it was time to reinvent its salon business for a new generation, the whole team sat back and took a long hard look at what was on offer and then began dismantling it. Only from there could we rebuild what we knew would keep the salons at the forefront of the industry for another generation.

I joined as Senior Creative Director around this time. That was four years ago. My remit was to take the vision developed by the company and make it a reality across our 850 salons. I was to lead the rebuild, beginning with a rewriting of the relationship between the salon and the guest, between JCPenney and the team – our associates – on the salon floor.

Over the following 12 months we searched for a greater understanding of our ideal clients, looking closely at their lifestyle, their likes and dislikes, even their hopes and dreams. We set up survey after survey and sat through hundreds of focus groups, listening intently. At the same time, we revisited our relationship with our associates in the salon. Our brand had to appeal to new and existing talent, ensuring we had the right people on our team to deliver on our brand ideals.

We set up networks from people within and without JCPenney, encouraging them to voice new ideas and then watching how they permeated through the groups. For me it was an amazing experience. I have decades of experience, first owning and running my own salons and then working for 15 years at an international level as Creative Director for Matrix, but I had to leave all my preconceived ideas at the door and listen without judgment to what was being said.

All those conversations helped us formulate what has become the new JCPenney salon brand. We are currently working through an environment project, ensuring each location – whatever its size and however big the team, be it 10 or 60 – communicates the same levels of comfort and care.

With such an extensive family of salons, it will take time. But that’s okay, because as far as I’m concerned we’ve already crossed the most important and biggest hurdle of them all: creating an outstanding education platform for our associates that guarantees consistency of message and standards.

With 850 salons and 14,000 associates, education is crucial. But following our review, learning is now at the heart of our business and it is having a huge impact.

I spend my life in transit, travelling between our locations leading in an ongoing continuous learning program. Helping me are my four design team members, each heading up one of the four regions. Between us we are delivering 20,000 in-salon sessions each year nationwide.

JCPenney’s new look and feel is a reality, firmly established and with substance thanks to this emphasis on education. It is improving the technical skills of every associate, inspiring and motiving them not just to be better but continuously to think about fashion, trends and self-improvement.

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