JC Penney’s new logo brings to mind what the Gap tried to accomplish visually — but the reactions appear to be entirely different, with very little groundswell of rejection or criticism to date to the new look (below).
Why? In part, it may owe to how the Gap, over the years, did a better job of cultivating an image and particular presence with its audience, so any change in trade dress was going to draw fire. Nobody can accuse Penney’s of having been as good at inspiring its consumer base as Target, or Walmart. Or that somehow this look succeeds where the Gap’s simply didn’t.
The new logo contemporizes without losing whatever stylistic gravitas the previous mark possessed — which is to say, none. Penney’s previous logo was stunningly innocuous, and did nothing to distance them from that 1970s’ anchor store feel sensibility the brand has never outgrown.
By focusing on the JCP, they’re trying to create a shorthand form of the brand that should have some traction. Provided they’ve got the discipline to enforce it and promote it in interesting ways, making it actually stand for something hip, relevant and fresh. That’s where branding, for all the attention that’s given to logos, has to do its real work — in terms of how it acts, interacts, walks and talks and follows through in all the other crucial ways that make a real difference in consumer attitude.