PHOENIX: Creating an emotional bond with consumers remains just as important as promotional activity and price cuts during the economic downturn, according to Ruby Anik, svp of brand marketing at JCPenney, the US retailer.

Speaking at the 2009 Association of National Advertisers Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference – Warc's coverage of which is available here – Anik said "a 180-year-old company like us doesn't think in just the short term."

"And, in a time like we've experienced the last two years, our customer is the one who's been hurt the most," she added.

While many brands are solely emphasising value in their communications in an effort to drive up volume sales, this approach "wouldn't have been very savvy" for JCPenney, Anik argued.

"We talk to our customers all the time. We know that, in times like this, they're interested in finances, money, and value; that they care more about homes, their families and relationships."

As such, taking a broader approach remains essential, so as to reinforce the perception that the Plano-based firm both understands, and responds to, the varying needs of its customers.

"Those values are critical. So, we don't just talk about discounts and promotions. Instead, it's much more important for us to be relevant to our customers, to use our marketing to create an emotional connection with our customers," said Anik.

"Our goal is that our costumer sees one company, one brand. Not, 'Today JCPenney is discounting apparel.' Or 'Tomorrow JCPenney is making an emotional connection.' We needed the two together, speaking with one voice."

A nuanced approach is also crucial when attempting to improve considerations levels among a multicultural audience, and needs to extend beyond advertising to numerous other elements of the marketing mix.

These include digital platforms, the fashion ranges offered in stores, as well as the overall "experience" shoppers enjoy when visiting the company's outlets.

JCPenney has also launched an iPhone application, tested mobile coupons, and established a presence on Facebook, this year as it seeks to become a truly "modern retailer".

To read more about JCPenney's approach to multicultural marketing, click here.

Data sourced from Warc