Business Insider noticed that J.C. Penney's apology ad from earlier this month -- which has since been pulled from circulation -- featured a different logo than we'd seen before.
The article also notes that this all-lowercase "jcpenney" logo likewise appears on the company's latest print material.
If this is indeed the new logo (there's been no official announcement from the company, and the logo hasn't been changed on the website), then it will be replacing the "jcp" logo that kicked off Ron Johnson's ill-fated tenure as CEO. That logo, in turn, replaced the "JCPenney" logo that put the first three letters in a box, which in turn replaced the box-less "JCPenney" logo.
There's a clear progression in those first three logos, with each successive logo placing more and more emphasis on "JCP" until the company name was finally boiled down to those three letters. Now that Johnson's gone, the company seems to be backtracking and making a return to the full name.
Whatever the reason for the shift, erratic branding certainly isn't helping the retailer. By our count, the company has now had four logos in as many years, which means that as soon as one logo starts to stick in your head, it suddenly gets thrown in the dumpster and replaced. And Business Insider cites E-Poll Market Research, which found that recognition of the brand dropped every time J.C. Penney switched to a new logo.
The "new" logo is a lot closer to the old, pre-Johnson one, so maybe this is just the latest attempt to roll back recent innovations and make the retailer more recognizable to its core customers.
But if management wants a logo to stick in the heads of those customers, maybe they should stay with it for more than a year.
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.