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JCPenney’s Christmas Pin Program: Channel Ping-Pong

December 5th, 2012

The campaign seems to be strongly physical-store centric, which is fine as a way to show off the new JCPenney attributes. The promotion, though, makes no attempt to do that. It’s not as though shoppers were asked to visit some of the stores within the store and to collect buttons there. The JCPenney we visited was within a mall, and we witnessed quite a few mall shoppers step inside JCPenney, take a handful of pins and then walk right back into the mall to continue non-JCP shopping.

Even the little card that the chain issues with the pins reflects an oddly unrealistic view of a store-centric mentality: “Come to JCP every day through Christmas Eve for more buttons, while supplies last, and more chances to win gifts.” Acknowledging that marketing copy is, by design, over the top, we still need to ask if the idea is truly for shoppers to have to go back to the store “every day.” After that first day, why couldn’t they resubmit twice a day (the limit) solely on the Web site or via mobile? That’s still encouraging daily interaction with the brand, in a less-ludicrous manner.

Then there are the terms and conditions. Nothing is more refreshing than reading a chain’s marketing copy (“shopping here is easier than breathing oxygen and better than great sex”) and then reading its legal copy (“that’s not funny. And put that down right now”).

You think it’s hard for customers to determine if they’ve won? Check out what they must do if they have won and have the audacity to try and collect their prize. Courteously, most casual shoppers will be spared that hardship, as the odds of winning run from eight-to-one for a $5 or $10 gift certificate (good only to purchase $5 or $10 items, as opposed to those dollars off larger purchases) to 81,000-to-one for a $500 gift certificate to 618,321-to-one for winning an $8,000 Great American Vacation Grand Prize. A pair of VIP tickets to a taping of The Ellen DeGeneris Show comes with odds of 27 million-to-one. And then there are the really hard to win prizes—including 81 million-to-one odds against winning a two-slot toaster.

Wait. Customers are literally a hundred times more likely to win an $8,000 vacation than to win a $60 toaster? In fact, several sub-$100 prizes have longer odds than the contest’s big-money “grand prizes.” Has anyone at JCPenney ever actually run a contest like this before? This isn’t the place to dump a few leftover clearance items.

If they’re lucky enough to beat the odds, customers have to complete a gift claim form within 48 hours of receiving their winning notification. Hopefully, it doesn’t get stuck in a spam filter for too long. (We are reminded of a favorite line from an early Simpsons episode, where Homer is given 24 hours to live by Dr. Hibbert. “24 hours?!” “Well, 22. I’m sorry I kept you waiting so long.”

Winners are given the option of uploading a photo, which would be displayed “on the JCP tree.” The T&C then adds, cryptically, “New York and Tennessee residents are not allowed to upload a photograph.” It’s probably due to state law, but ’tis a wise move regardless.

Under another missed opportunity, buried in the middle of the T&C is a nice holiday-themed reason for shoppers to participate in this promotion, but good luck finding it: “Salvation Army Donation: For each Code entered into the Web site on November 27, 2012 (CT), JCP will donate $1 to The Salvation Army, up to a maximum donation of $100,000.” Why not tout that on every piece of signage for the promotion? “If you enter, even if you don’t win, you’ve still made a difference this holiday season.”

The very last line of the T&C is another baffler: “Apple is not a participant in or sponsor of the Promotion.” That certainly seems to be the case, given that neither Apple nor any Apple product or service is in any way mentioned or referenced. (Smells like a cut-and-paste from a template for another promotion where Apple was involved. Either that or JCPenney’s lawyers now periodically throw in the names of random companies that are not involved in things.) Given the details of this promotion, though, it doesn’t seem like JCPenney was that active a participant, either.


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