A look from Penney’s b-t-s campaign.

Penney's b-t-s campaign largely built around digital and social media and mobile marketing.

J.C. Penney Co Inc. is heading back to school with an aggressive campaign largely built around digital and social media and mobile marketing.

This story first appeared in the July 15, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

For the first time, the department store chain will use haul videos in which consumers assess product, and mobile iAds, signaling Penney’s determination to capture a bigger share of the youth market. This year, on a monthly basis, Penney’s has been lagging its prime competitors, Macy’s and Kohl’s.

“Back-to-school is very important,” said Mike Boylson, Penney’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “It’s destination shopping and malls are the destination. It’s when a lot of our key categories peak. Denim, juniors, young men’s, children’s, footwear, lingerie and home all have big peaks in August. This year, we will fight tooth and nail for market share. We are spending a lot more on nontraditional marketing.”

Digital is a larger percentage of the total spend, which Boylson declined to disclose. It includes search, social, mobile, targeted display, jcp.com and a number of new initiatives, including so-called hauls in which consumers critique Penney’s merchandise on jcp.com and Penney’s Facebook page.

“Hauls is the next evolution,” Boylson said. “They’re starting to replace bloggers.”

They average 10 minutes in length and Penney’s is using six haulers, who were each given two $500 gift certificates and complete freedom to say what they want, except if the language is inappropriate. Penney’s b-t-s marketing starts today and continues through Labor Day.

“We still have traditional media going,” Boylson said, including newspaper inserts, direct mail and the jcpenney rewards program.

Penney’s is also joining seventeen.com later this month with live video and computer-generated visualization that allows teens to digitally try on merchandise, show it to their friends and click and buy it.

The b-t-s slogan is “New Look. New Year. Who Knew?” It is a variation of the current slogan, “New Look, New Day, Who Knew?”

On the more conventional side, Penney’s will run 30-second and 60-second spots preceding PG and PG-13 movies in about half the theaters in the U.S. The spots depict students taking over school picture day with their own fashion shoot. The concept continues in print ads in Teen Vogue, Seventeen and People StyleWatch. There also will be a sweepstakes for tickets to a Jonas Brothers concert, a meeting with the band and a $100 gift card.

The campaign, created with Saatchi & Saatchi New York and Razorfish, will highlight Penney’s private, exclusive and national brands, such as Arizona, Levi’s, Decree, City Streets, RS by Sheckler, Olsenboye, Rusty, Vans, Ditch Plains and Converse as well as new brands this season — Uproar, Supergirl by Nastia and Zoo York.

The company will showcase its exclusive brands via the Supergirl JAM sports competition, the Dew Tour sports competition, the Miss Universe contest and Premios Juventud, the Hispanic music awards show in the U.S. During an International Secret Agents concert, Penney’s will host an online contest giving teens an opportunity to upload a video to YouTube to showcase their talents. The most-talented performer — chosen through popular vote — will be awarded a Penney’s gift card and an opportunity to perform at ISA concerts in Los Angeles and New York.

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