Americans love a good apology.
Show even a modicum of sincerity, and all is forgiven.
J. C. Penney and its apology ad is certainly banking on this dynamic. Unfortunately, the strategy is flawed, and the execution is worse.
We’ve simplified the chain of events in the aerial view below:
Did I miss something?
I thought J. C. Penney was fighting the worst type of crisis – one of confidence. Oh, and cash is running a tad low, prompting the retailer to hire Blackstone to come up with creative options to keep the lights turned on.
If there was ever a time for earned media and the CEO to come to the fore, this is it. You don’t fall on your sword by posting a video on YouTube.
But Ullman is MIA. The company didn’t even respond to calls from journalists following up on the video.
And if you are going to use social media and a video, at least bring the CEO into the picture so an actual human delivers the mea culpa. Instead, we get 30 seconds of a syrupy soundtrack, a hired voice over and promotional copywriting.
Every single cue in the video screams, “This is not authentic!”
This not-authentic theme continues in how J. C. Penney responds to the posted comments on YouTube. I quit counting the use of “sincerely” in the responses after the number hit 25.
Look, I recognize that the posted comments on YouTube often become a digital cesspool. Rather than respond to every legit comment, simply weighing in at intervals with something meaningful can end up being more effective.
With so much at stake, it’s surprising that the company hasn’t embraced a holistic approach to the campaign.
For example, countless media properties have covered the NAA (not authentic apology) triggering hundreds of posted comments. Yet, the J. C. Penney voice is nowhere to be found. I guess the company isn’t aware that conversations happen outside of YouTube.
And apparently no one informed the folks in charge of the website that the apology campaign was in motion. How else do you explain an “About Us” section with the sun shining and birds chirping?
This isn’t a train wreck waiting to happen.
The brand has already crashed.
Note. It’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but the Domino’s Pizza “We Blew It” video shows authentic storytelling in action during a crisis.