Fair and Square: A Brilliant Brand Statement

When JC Penney came out with their new “Fair and Square” campaign, I wasn’t so sure I liked it. Some good concepts, some not-so-good concepts and some terrific music-based commercials (ahem, a bit like Target’s), which were pretty well done.

Now, one thing I LOVE about it, is that right off the bat, JC Penney was tested as to how deeply they’d back that brand and they passed that test—with rainbow colors, you might say.

Have you’ve heard about the One Million Moms protest? (If not, read more here.)

Snapshot of JC Penney CEO interview in which he backs Ellen DeGeneres

Not understanding the concept of “fair and square,” let alone the campaign, the “Million Moms” pushed JC Penney to fire Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson because JC Penney was “jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon.” They added that  “the majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there.”


JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson gave a great response to this ridiculousness on CBS This Morning:

We stand squarely behind Ellen as our spokesperson and that’s a great thing, because she shares the same values that we do in our company…Our company was founded 110 years ago on The Golden Rule, which is about treating people fair and square, just like you would like to be treated yourself. And we think Ellen represents the values of our company and the values that we share.

Perfect answer. Plus, it was a very nice way of saying, “Hey idiots, do you not know what ‘fair and square’ means?”

Obviously (I hope), no company would bow to such a silly request these days…right? (I’m typing it and I’m not so sure.)

What I’m wondering is: Exactly how brilliant was this new brand plan?

Did they choose Ellen because she’s a great representation of a fair and square choice? Or did they expect the controversy and execute a well-thought-out plan on how to boost their brand by responding to it?

Johnson’s answer gives me the impression they chose Ellen for honest, pure reasons. He said:

My instinct…is that spokespeople aren’t really necessary unless a company is going through a profound change…We looked around…and Ellen was the one who stood out. She’s honest, she’s funny, she has integrity. Americans like her but they really trust her. She seemed to be the perfect person.

Integrity. Fair and square. Hmm…wouldn’t it be nice if these qualities were more prevalent today?

Wouldn’t it also be nice if more companies understood brand the way JC Penney has come to. Regardless of what you think of the idea of a “fair and square campaign,” the company has proven that they understand brand. They understand the big picture and maybe are not just giving lip service to the main idea.

I’d have to shop at JC Penney more to know for sure. And after the way they’ve conducted themselves so far, I just might.


The source for the last quote–and a terrific interview, if you have five minutes to watch–is Yahoo Finance: JC Penney CEO on Ellen DeGeneres Boycott Threats: “America Believes in Ellen.”



  1. BethanyvH (@BethanyvH) · June 14, 2012

    You might be interested in this article about JCPenny’s next move: http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/jcpenney-hits-back-anti-gay-critics-two-dads-fathers-day-ad-140853 It’s brilliant!

    • ctmarcom · June 14, 2012

      Thanks, Bethany. I love hold bold JCPenney is being and how strong a stance they are taking. What a great move to use real dads too!

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