August 5, 2013, 10:56 AM

J.C. Penney hires an ad executive from Kraft Foods

Debra Berman joins the retailer as senior vice president of marketing.

Allison Enright

Editor

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J.C. Penney Co. Inc. has hired an ad executive from Kraft Foods to lead the retailer’s marketing efforts, it announced today. Debra Berman is the retailer’s new senior vice president of marketing.

Tasked with leading marketing, revitalizing the J.C. Penney brand and communicating the brand’s promise to consumers, Berman has a big job to do. In January 2012, J.C. Penney, under the guidance of then-CEO Ron Johnson, overhauled the retailer’s marketing and pricing strategies, eschewing the heavily promotional strategy the retailer had used for years in favor of a “fair & square” pricing strategy, which set lower everyday prices for products. The strategy backfired and retailer’s sales fell. J.C. Penney’s 2012 net loss was $985 million compared with a net loss of $152 million in 2011. E-commerce sales last year were $1.02 billion, a decline of about 32.0% from about $1.50 billion in 2011. J.C. Penney is No. 34 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Top 500 Guide.

Johnson stepped down in April, and J.C. Penney rehired Myron E. Ullman as CEO. Ullman had been the retailer’s CEO for seven years before Johnson. He has reversed a number of the decisions made by his predecessor and reinstated many of the promotional strategies in place prior to Johnson’s tenure.

Penney’s marketing team had been run by Michael Francis, the company’s president, until his resignation last June. Berman takes on the marketing portion of his responsibilities. “Debra Berman is an enormously talented marketing executive and her desire to join the J. C.  Penney team is a testament to our brand and its potential,” Ullman says.

Berman comes from Kraft Foods Group, where she had worked since 2009, most recently as vice president of marketing strategy and engagement. Prior to Kraft, Berman worked at a number of ad agencies, including DDB Advertising and Young & Rubicam.  

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