Exclusive: J.C. Penney Marketing Department Hit By Two More Departures

Eric Hunter, the SVP of marketing, was dismissed earlier this month and sources say ex-Coca Cola consultant Sergio Zyman has severely cut back his involvement.

J.C. Penney has bigger issues to deal with than the tempest in a Hitler-looking teapot.

The management overhaul sparked by the departure of former CEO Ron Johnson last month hit the marketing department, where sources familiar with the situation said Eric Hunter, a senior vice president of marketing, has left the company and high-profile consultant Sergio Zyman has severely scaled back his work with the retailer.

Hunter left J.C. Penney earlier this month around the time new CEO Mike Ullman appointed Jan Hodges as senior vice president of sales promotion, a role with similar responsibilities to Hunter’s position, sources told BuzzFeed on condition of anonymity. Hunter joined J.C. Penney in February of last year from Kellwood, where he was chief marketing officer.

These sources also said Zyman, an ex-Coca-Cola marketer who Johnson hired to consult for J.C. Penney, has been much less visible after personality clashes with Ullman. While Zyman is still technically under contract, he is no longer actively working for the company, said sources.

A J.C. Penney representative disputed that account, however, saying that Zyman brought in a colleague, Jeff Herbert, to work in marketing who has been taking on more responsibility there. The representative said while Herbert’s presence may give the appearance that Zyman has pulled back, that is not the case.

Attempts to reach Zyman via contact information in public records failed.

In March, J.C. Penney’s vice president of strategic marketing left for Home Depot. Two other executives in the division, including former Chief Marketing Officer Michael Francis, left in June and October of last year.

Still, the shakeup underscores J.C. Penney’s return to a promotional advertising model, which Johnson, the ex-Apple retail chief, sought to eliminate during his brief tenure at the department-store company. J.C. Penney brought back Ullman, Johnson’s predecessor as CEO, last month after the attempted changes resulted in a $4.3 billion, or 25 percent, decline in sales.

Johnson bet big on the marketing division to communicate his plan to move the retailer away from sales- and coupon-driven promotions. Instead, Johnson wanted J.C. Penney to feature everyday-low prices like those at Wal-Mart and to be known as “America’s favorite store.” He scaled back on weekly circulars in favor of monthly catalogs, hired Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson and bought a bunch of pricy, emotional TV ads that ran during the Oscars.

Zyman, known for big marketing wins at Coca-Cola in the 90s such as the “Always Coca-Cola” campaign as well as the disaster of “New Coke,” was a high-profile get for J.C. Penney. He pushed the company to hire Y&R as its new creative agency of record last month, according to AdAge. The head of Y&R told Forbes in a May 21 article that it was an honor to work with J.C. Penney as well as “Sergio Zyman and his management team.”

With Ullman back in charge, it’s presumed that J.C. Penney will require less in the way of brand-building efforts and marketing of big new partnerships. The retailer made headlines earlier this month after releasing TV ads apologizing to customers and then thanking them for their return.

J.C. Penney’s Oscars Ad Campaign

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