Naming In The News

Macy's Restates Its Case

With its State Street flagship faltering, the department store chain has launched ads touting the outlet's one-of-a-kind experience

By Sandra M. Jones, Chicago Tribune
October 24, 2007

Is it time to move on when it comes to Marshall Field's? Macy's, which alienated some Chicagoans last year when it dropped the Field's name, appears ready to do so.

Looking to breathe new life into its downtown State Street flagship store, Macy's launched an ad campaign that aims to put its own contemporary stamp on the iconic store to attract new customers.

So its new advertising plays up State Street, not the Macy's name. The slogan, "Take Me to State Street," began appearing this week at bus shelters and train stations.

At the heart of the campaign is a series of nine ads touting some of the exclusive products and shops at Macy's State Street store, such as toy store FAO Schwarz and beauty-product shop Carol's Daughter. A subtle reference to the Macy's name and famous red star, far less prominent than "State Street," is the only indication it's a Macy's ad.

That was by design, Macy's executives say.

"We didn't say, 'Take me to Macy's on State Street,' because that isn't the point of the campaign," said Norm Yustin, senior vice president of marketing for Macy's northern division, the unit made up primarily of what once were Marshall Field's stores. "We're a critical part of this neighborhood. We don't want to sit around passively. We want to drive people to this neighborhood."

The initiative targets young shoppers and new Loop residents in what appears to be a shift from Macy's earlier efforts to convince shoppers that what they loved at Marshall Field's is still intact. Experts are divided on whether the new approach will work.

Consumer behavior and advertising expert Dan Howard said Macy's latest campaign "could very well work."

Others aren't so sure.

"I don't see it making strategic sense," said William Lozito, president of Minneapolis-based Strategic Name Development Inc. "[Macy's Chairman and Chief Executive Terry] Lundgren just tried to will Macy's into being. He said everything is going to be Macy's, and the business just went south."

Multiple Initiatives

Still, the campaign, along with other initiatives, clearly sets out to get new customers through Macy's doors. The historic Walnut Room gets updated with a new wine bar, complete with a communal wooden table built by local millworker Mark Bernhard. Wi-Fi access will be available at many of the store's cafes and eating areas. And Time Out Chicago is teaming with Macy's to host monthly shopping and dining events aimed at luring college students to the store.

Macy's also is going green, though not Field's green. The store is offering reusable, eco-friendly shopping bags with the "Take Me to State Street" slogan as part of a package of special discounts and gifts for new residents in the burgeoning Loop neighborhood.

The campaign, slated to run through the end of the year, comes as the critical holiday selling season begins. Forecasters predict that this will be the toughest retail season in five years.

Lundgren, on a mission to reinvent the department store, faces increased pressure from Wall Street to prove that its $11 billion acquisition of rival May Department Stores Co. and subsequent decision to rebrand hundreds of regional department stores as Macy's is working. Macy's executives have expressed disappointment with sales at the former Marshall Field's stores and its State Street flagship.

Macy's has been trying to revive the Chicago flagship, its second-largest store in the nation, after Macy's Herald Square, since taking over the chain last year.

Early this month the retailer announced a deal with FAO Schwarz to bring the New York-based toy store back to Chicago with an outpost inside of Macy's. And last summer the company unveiled a swath of marketing initiatives tied to the State Street store's 100th anniversary of the Tiffany Ceiling, Great Clock and Walnut Room.

Meanwhile, the debate about whether Macy's can win over Chicago still rages.

"They're trying to be all things to all people," said James McKay, head of Field's Fans, a 2-year-old group that runs a blog and boycotts Macy's stores. "When they bring up these Marshall Field's icons, it's like they're bringing up something that's part of what they're trying to make people forget."

Others say that Macy's has little choice.

"Every company has to look for new customers," said Howard, who is chair of the marketing department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "If you don't, you're asking for trouble. They're going about this in a very contemporary way."