JCPenney's Big Bet on Unveiling a New Look on Oscars Red Carpet

Last Updated Feb 23, 2011 7:49 AM EST

It's ba-ack. Taking its 10th consecutive turn on the glam-est night in Hollywood, JCPenney (JCP) will be the sole retail sponsor trying to capture the minds (and wallets) of hordes of TV viewers tuning in to the Oscars on Sunday. JCP's taking full advantage of its time in the spotlight with a series of ads showcasing its (latest) new look. Though most people won't even realize the logo changed, JCP is using the commercials to continue a slow and steady assault on consumers' mindsets. It's an effort that's gathering steam.

As such, the seven 30-second spots are splashed with the retailer's new logo (now in lower case! with jpc in a box!) and a new slogan, "We make it affordable. You make it yours." These are supposed to be a natural progression from last year's effort, "New look. New day. Who knew?" when JCP paid over $1 million to highlight its collaborative efforts with the likes of celebrity designers such as Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.

This year Liz Sweney, JCP's co-chief merchant is hoping that the viewers -â€" an estimated 42 million, most of whom are women -â€" will be in JCP's 25- to 35- year old target group who can relate to hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco. "They're cool, and that's important for us," Sweney said.

JCPenney: Home to young fashionistas?

JCP's been working hard to capture younger fashionistas with several initiatives including a more urban and edgy capsule collection from European label Mango. JCP also became the first department store to have a fully integrated shopping page on Facebook and is taking steps to dump its legacy catalog business in order to put more muscle into e-commerce.

The biggest problem with JCP's Oscar investments is that its efforts don't seem cohesive. A "modern" logo flying over quasi-frumpy Liz Claiborne togs is reminiscent of Talbots' makeover fail. And unlike Target (TGT), masters of the designer collaboration, the quality of JCP's clothing (think flimsy Olsenboye threads) often falls short of the luxe glam evoked by celebrities on the red carpet. Not that a discount department store chain is required to peddle haute couture, but the merchandise needs to be reasonably well-constructed even if it is priced below designer brands.

Beyond a stylish splash page, JCP's Facebook shopping site looks about as exciting as its catalogs of yore. But the formula for its pairing with People StyleWatch is just the right mix of editorial and shopping. Likewise, JCP's made some strides in the quality direction with its Mango assortment (with slightly higher prices to match) but the I "Heart" Ronson collection looks so last year.

If JCPenney really wants to up its fashion cred and become a destination for fashionistas on a budget its going to have to do more than tease Oscar watchers with polished commercials. It has to deliver on all fronts: quality, value and style. Slow and steady may win the race in other industries, but fashion doesn't wait.

Image via JCPenney