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JC Penney Finally Hires New CMO

Ailing retail behemoth JC Penney has hired Debra Berman as its new senior vice president of marketing. Berman comes from Kraft Foods Group, where she served as vice president of marketing strategy and engagement.

JC Penney CEO Mike Ullman beamed optimistically about his new employee, saying her “broad experience and success as a marketing strategist for major consumer brands make her the ideal leader to help us continue to reconnect with our core customer through effective promotions and campaigns that will increase excitement and loyalty now and over the long term.”

Ullman also said Berman would be responsible for “revitalizing” the JC Penney brand, no inconsiderable task given the daunting challenges the once dominant company now faces.

As a result of persistent underperformance, the upper echelon of J.C. Penny’s executive ranks has withered from attrition. Paul Rutenis, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for the home division, has departed. Rutenis was hired by Johnson in April 2011 and tasked with “reenergizing the home merchandise department.”

Jeff Herbert, hired by ex-Coca Cola executive Sergio Zyman to lead J.C. Penny’s marketing team, has departed. As recently as last May, a spokesperson for J.C. Penny’s told reporters that Herbert they were enthusiastic abut his work and assigning him even greater responsibility as a result.

Chris Chapo, formerly divisional vice president of customer relationship marketing and loyalty, plucked from Apple by Johnson, has moved on. And while nether J.C. Penny’s chief information officer and chief operating officer, it has not gone unnoticed that those positions have been delisted from the company’s website.

Many reported leaving because they anticipated J.C. Penny’s woes to continue and worsen. The retailer has been plagued by persistent inefficiencies, construction and licensing delays, and costly administrative missteps. According to one veteran supervision who recently recently resigned after fourteen years of service: “I left because I knew the construction of the home shops was going to be a mess. Permits were not secured. The whole organization has lost credibility with me.”

Berman fills a position vacated by Michael Francis, who jumped ship after only eight months on the job. Now he works for Gap Inc.