JC Penny Supports Ellen, Builds Brand Trust

February 15, 2012

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JC Penny is a brand I grew up with in the US and one I've always associated with excellent customer service and quality. But until last week, I'd never associated it as a brand with similar ‘values'. JC Penny recently hired Ellen Degeneres as their official spokesperson, prompting conservative group One Million Moms to launch a petition calling for the boycott of JC Penny stores. Ellen responded by speaking about it on her show and posting online to her 9 million Twitter followers and on YouTube.

JC Penny addressed the issue head-on by publicly affirming their decision to hire Ellen as a spokesperson who according to JC Penny CEO Ron Jonson, ‘shares the same values that we do…treating people fare and squarely.' In an interview with CBS This Morning, Jonson went on to say, ‘It's not that common that companies use spokespeople, but if you can find that exact right person, we thought it would be great. We thought Ellen would be the perfect person because we all sort of trust her.'

Organisations don't often hire openly gay spokespeople perhaps because it's still seen as ‘too risky'. This is an argument One Million Moms hopes to strengthen. However, the millions who have shown their support through tweets, video views and letters – and more importantly offline action show otherwise.

Support for Ellen and JC Penny came quickly from LGBT and straight communities who leveraged social media to gather and drive offline action. This included a group of bloggers who organised local ‘shop-in' events, a Gay Day and LGBT flashmob in New York City and Facebook groups where many posted their recent JC Penny purchases in support of the brand.

JC Penny may have lost a few moms, but they gained an army of enthusiastic and loyal new customers who now trust and believe in the brand. In a recession, brand trust is gold dust and in the case of JC Penny can give them buoyancy as customers renew their patronage or choose to visit for the first time. Benefits of which will be felt long after the next firesale.