Titled "It's No Secret," the 30-second spot acknowledges the various changes the retailer has undergone in the last year and a half and admits that not every change went over well with the retailer's customer base.
"Some changes you liked, and some you didn't," says the ad's narrator, in what can charitably be described as a massive understatement. See for yourself:
The ad promises that the company will learn from its mistakes, the most high-profile of which was the "fair and square" pricing scheme, which did away with coupons and sales. Shortly before his ouster, Johnson himself acknowledged that the pricing strategy was a mistake, noting that "we learned [our customer] loves a sale."
The apparel strategy was likewise unpopular. Johnson brought in jeans "bars" and stylish boutiques from new brands like Joe Fresh, but in the process did away with "basic" apparel and favored brands like St. John's Bay. That alienated the retailer's older customers, and the company recently said it would start bringing back those departed brands in an attempt to lure back the faithful.
The ad went up on Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday morning, and attracted thousands of comments from J.C. Penney fans alternately praising the company for its honestly and angrily demanding changes.
"Bring back St Johns Bay get rid of all the sleezy stuff you changed to," reads one popular comment on the Facebook post. Another commenter demands that the retailer abandon its mobile checkout system, which is intended to make the checkout process more convenient but has attracted complaints from some shoppers and employees.
J.C. Penney had been on a bit of a roll since Johnson was replaced by former CEO Myron Ullman, but shares have been trending downward since Moody's cut its rating Tuesday and declared that a new loan it had secured from Goldman Sachs "will not solve JCP's longer term performance concerns."
UPDATE: About three minutes after tweeting out the link to this story, I got a reply from J.C. Penney's Twitter account:
@brownellorama We're listening, Matt. - Lee- jcpenney (@jcpenney) May 1, 2013
I've noticed that other users tweeting at J.C. Penney are receiving similar responses; in cases where a user has made a specific suggestion, the person manning the account thanks the user for his or her feedback. The company's Facebook account is likewise taking an active role in the discussion and thanking commenters for their responses. And the company's social media team is rallying the discussion around the hashtag #jcplistens.
One of the big criticisms of Johnson was his penchant for charging ahead with big changes without first testing them with customers. While we doubt the new management is reading each and every comment, they clearly want to give the impression that they're more responsive to their customers than the old boss.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.