J.C. Penney Fills Top Marketing Position With Former Kraft Executive

The ailing department store brings in a key hire, filling a position that has been vacant for about a year.

J.C. Penney has found a new marketing leader, filling a position that has been vacant for a year.

Debra Berman joined the department store company last week as senior vice president of marketing from Kraft Foods, where she directed global brand strategy and customer engagement for all Kraft-owned brands, ranging from Oreo to Trident. At J.C. Penney, she will “focus on revitalizing the J.C. Penney brand, building its brand architecture and communicating the J.C. Penney brand promise,” the retailer said in a statement today.

J.C. Penney hasn’t found a new senior marketing leader since Michael Francis, a hire made by ex-CEO Ron Johnson, who left the company last July. Johnson, the former Apple retail chief, helmed the efforts for a period, and consultants such as Sergio Zyman and Jeff Herbert came in this year, though sources told BuzzFeed that Zyman clashed with current management.

The marketing department has been hit by a series of departures in the past year as J.C. Penney struggled to implement “everyday low prices” under Johnson, who was ousted in April, and then reverted to a promotional model of sales and coupons.

“There is huge opportunity to remind America’s families why it is so great to shop at J.C. Penney while attracting new customers to the brand,” Berman said in today’s statement. “This can be achieved through targeted campaigns that creatively highlight our unique and authentic combination of style, quality and value. I am eager to begin working with Mike and the entire team to restore J.C. Penney’s place as an iconic destination for customers for important occasions and all the times in between.”

Berman’s efforts won’t come in time for the back-to-school season, the year’s second-biggest shopping event for retailers, but may have a positive impact on the all-important holiday season.

J.C. Penney is under pressure to recover some of the $4.3 billion it lost in annual sales under Johnson. Last week, reports that commercial lender CIT Group stopped funding some future shipments to J.C. Penney sent the stock spiraling.

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