I worked with Macy’s several years ago and rank that professional engagement right up there with consulting the CEO of Blockbuster Video as one of the most frustrating experiences of my career.

Macy’s had so much potential to remain a beloved, aspirational brand, but failed in so many ways to adequately respond to the writing so clearly written on the wall. With the announcement of another 100 stores closing, on top of the 40 stores offered up on the chopping block in January following its sixth quarter of disappointing comp sales, Macy’s is dying a slow and painful death. It’s difficult to watch knowing that this likely could have been avoided if management had chosen to compete differently. But rather than embrace proven cult-brand principles aimed at improving customer engagement, they opted to stick with an ad-centric, discount heavy strategy which is increasingly the mark of desperate brands who irrationally believe that shouting the loudest and bribing customers with savings will keep them relevant in a world filled with too many choices and too little time.

Macy’s is dying a slow and painful death.

Macy’s ranks within the Top 20 of all U.S. Advertisers, but their $1Billion+ marketing budget is clearly not helping the brand stay alive. Meanwhile, their investments in multi-channel retailing have been too little, too late. Their Star Rewards program remains full of unrecognized potential, and a quick Google search reveals countless consumer complaints illustrating how miserable Macy’s customer service has become. Macy’s will soon be a classic case study of brand leaders failing to embrace new ways of thinking and instead choosing to cling to a woefully outdated purchase funnel marketing mentality that simply doesn’t work anymore.

Macy’s will soon be a classic case study of brand leaders failing to embrace new ways of thinking

Shame of you Macy’s. You’ve been exposed to better internal and external engagement techniques espoused by wildly successful cult brands, but you choose to ignore them. You had several raw ingredients you could have exploited to better live up to consumer expectations for your category, but you choose instead to overdose on the drugs of advertising and excessive mark downs. You are now reaping what you sowed. Much like Sports Authority’s recent demise, you can’t blame your fall from grace on a dwindling middle class or unfavorable weather conditions. No, you need to own it. Your leadership team placed the wrong bets. You failed to understand what it takes to engage a 21st century consumer and instead doubled down on legacy tactics that fail to resonate. The only positive I can see from this whole messy situation is a quote that says, “When you make a mistake, all is not lost. You can always be used as a good example of what not to do”. Best Buy, Nordstrom, Dillards, GAP, Toys R’ Us, PetSmart, Michaels, Belk — you have all now been warned. If your marketing playbook looks anything like Macy’s, an emergency meeting is in order.

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