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Report: J.C. Penney CEO discusses departure of Francis; marketing wasn’t resonating

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson is taking over direct responsibility for marketing in the wake of the departure of Michael Francis, who left the company abruptly on Monday, Women’s Wear Daily reported.

Speculation has been raging about the reasons behind Francis’ sudden exit after just eight months on the job. In the article, Johnson blamed it on the fact that J.C. Penney’s marketing had not resonated with its core customer and that he “had to get involved.”

“My job as CEO is to really take responsibility for everything. I felt compelled to dive in and help with the new strategy. Michael and I both concluded we didn’t need two hands on the same steering wheel. The marketing I largely left to him. The fact that it hasn’t resonated [meant] I had to get involved,” Johnson said in the report.

The J.C. Penney CEO also said it was “mutually agreed” that Francis should leave.

“It’s really hard to see him go,” Johnson told WWD. “He’s really well liked. It was very tough.”

Johnson made it clear in the report that he will be overseeing marketing.

“At this point, I am going to take direct responsibility. I will not be searching for a replacement,” he said.

Industry analysts were surprised by the sudden departure of Francis, who was recruited from Target, where he served as chief marketing officer, and was credited with enhancing the retailer’s fun and hip image. He brought a quirky style in J.C. Penney’s marketing, although some critics complained it did not do a good job of communicating the chain’s new pricing strategy.

“What they were doing hasn’t worked. [Francis] is the fall guy,” said Walter Loeb, New York-based retail consultant, in an Associated Press report.

Ultimately, Loeb said, people have to look at Johnson, who drove the new pricing plan. Loeb believes the plan is out of touch with shoppers’ current mindset.

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Unilever exec Cavaliere joins RILA board

BY CSA STAFF

Unilever president of customer development, Joe Cavaliere, is the newest addition to the board of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

The trade group’s board held its semi-annual meeting earlier this week and elected Cavaliere and re-elected PetSmart president and CEO Bob Moran and IBM’s general manager for the retail industry Karen Lowe.

“We are pleased to welcome Joe Cavaliere to the RILA board,” said RILA president Sandy Kennedy. “RILA benefits tremendously from the strategic insight provided by its highly engaged board of directors. Their perspective on the short- and long-term issues facing the retail industry is critical to our ability to deliver on the industry’s behalf.”

The RILA board is comprised of top executives from 18 of retail, supplier and service provider companies. Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel serves as chairman and Dollar General chairman and CEO Rick Dreiling serves as vice chairman.

Other board members include Greg Wasson, president and CEO of Walgreen; Eric Wiseman, chairman, president and CEO of VF; Robert Niblock, chairman and CEO of Lowe’s; Bill Rhodes, chairman, president and CEO of AutoZone; Frank Blake, chairman and CEO of Home Depot; Lou D’Ambrosio, president and CEO of Sears Holdings; Joe DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven; Alan Hoskins, president and CEO of Energizer Holdings; Sally Jewell, president and CEO of REI; James Myers, CEO of Petco; Steven Preston, EVP of Waste Management; Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., and Mike Ulman, former J.C. Penney chairman and CEO.

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Big data development is major move for Big Blue

BY CSA STAFF

The phrase “big data,” is all the rage these days and IBM made a major move to drive growth.

The company on Wednesday introduced a new class of predictive analytics software it said places decision making power into every employee’s fingertips regardless of location. The software gives instant insights on big data and helps employees become better salespeople, marketers, human resources managers, procurement experts, and customer service agents, according to IBM. In addition to generating insights on internal data in a matter of seconds, the software measures the impact of social networking channels and factors the information into organizational decision making, according to the company.

Those are some meaningful advances in how retailers and consumer packaged goods companies leverage technology and the expanding array of information inputs that spawned the term, “big data.” IBM contends its new software is a major milestone because it helps clients embed predictive, social, and entity analytics into their decision making, whether on the road, behind a desk or on a mobile device.

“In today’s marketplace, when a customer says they’re not happy, companies must decide how to react – not later that day, or in an hour, but instantly,” said Deepak Advani, IBM’s VP of business analytics products and solutions. “With these new technologies, winning organizations can embed analytics into under-served areas of their business, empowering all employees to make information based decisions.”

IBM has a lot riding on it ability to make inroads in the analytics space. The company’s 2015 roadmap shared with investors indicates it will generate $16 billion in new revenue from the analytics business. The latest offering is the culmination of more than a decade of work by IBM Research and dozens of acquisitions of predictive technology companies.

IBM said it spent $14 billion on those acquisitions and the investment is poised to pay off as the new solutions the company offers tap into the big data phenomenon and broaden the company’s potential client base to include digital marketers, chief marketing and risk officers.

What retailers and brand marketers are likely to find especially intriguing is a new social network analytics feature that enables companies to take sentiment analysis a step further by analyzing who the influencers are around any given topic, who exactly is listening, and why people should care. According to IBM, this feature enables decision makers to factor in how customers behave, what they say, and how big their sphere of influence is in a social network. For example, which other customers does this person know? Does this person influence others in their social network? The ability to incorporate social network analytics into the predictive models used in analytical decision management helps organizations identify social leaders who can influence behavior, according to IBM.
The new analytical decision management software, part of a series of IBM smarter analytics initiatives, helps clients apply automated, real-time analytics into any operational data no matter where it resides, and instantly analyze it to uncover trends and expose hidden paths to growth. As a result, IBM said insights can now be automated, socialized and used for predictive decision making.

Wednesday’s announcement builds on the company’s recent release of its Operational Decision Management software and is said to represent the first time that both analytical and operation decision management are provided on a single platform.

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