An illustration of what happens when evidence, marketing, and customers are ignored

Marketers and market researchers are always looking for stories that provide evidence for the value of what they do. Sometimes we get the evidence in the form of stories where people implement the research and the campaign and there is a positive outcome. But it is rare for the other story to be told, what happens when marketers, market research, indeed the whole principle of evidence based decision making, is ignored.

However, the New York Times has a very clear expose of what happens when evidence is ignored, the story of Ronald B Johnson’s 17 months at the top of US retailer JC Penney. It would not be fair of me to steal all of the story, and I would not write it as well as Stephanie Clifford has written it, so please read it here.
However, a few of the key points are:

  1. Johnson arrived with a stellar reputation after helping build the Apple stores.
  2. “many of his ideas were not tested and soon backfired”
  3. “he was pretty sarcastic about our marketing and how ridiculous it was”
  4. “He ignored a study Penney had just completed on customer preferences, and gave merchants a one-sheet grid explaining what prices they could use.”
  5. “When the new pricing was introduced in 2012, sales fell.”

After 17 months the board of JC Penney had had enough and at the beginning of April voted to remove Johnson.
Those of us who believe in evidence based decision making can’t ascribe all of JC Penney’s woes to Johnson not using the available evidence, we can’t even ascribe all of JC Penney’s woes to one person. However, this report in The New York Times paints a very interesting story and highlights the dangers of not listening to customers and not utilising the best evidence available.

Many thanks to Quirks for highlighting this story – and please do read the full article, I have just cherry picked a few key points – read it here.

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