It wasn’t long ago that JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson, the former head of Apple’s retail stores, was rumored to be on the verge of being sacked after just a few months on the job. It was too soon to make such a drastic move. Johnson’s strategy needed time to play out.

Well, it’s played out.

Johnson’s concept of “fair and square” pricing, meaning JCPenney would not discount, led to a new logo. More importantly, it was positioned against a retail market that constantly discounts. The CEO was was banking on consumers who believed that a discounted price was the real price, and that they were being gouged when merchandise was not discounted.

mistakes of JC PenneyIt hasn’t worked. The retailer just announced a $427 million quarterly loss and same-store sales drop of a whopping 32 percent from last year.

Johnson obviously miscalculated when he pinpointed what he thought was an emotional trigger for shoppers. Turns out it wasn’t emotional at all. In fact, a trip to a JCPenney store, as documented by Matthew Yglesias from Slate, demonstrated that the store hasn’t changed much either.

Johnson failed. His emotional trigger – that other retailers are not honest – was a pricing story, which is rarely emotional. In fact, even an advertising campaign that showed an item being sold for less at JCPenney than in a competing retailer didn’t arouse anger in shoppers. The ad was positively cheery.

The JCPenney brand, therefore, became unimportant and flat.

To his credit, Johnson had a coherent strategy in a market where few retailers even try. I mean, what exactly is Sears’ strategic plan?

Unfortunately for the new CEO, this was the wrong strategy. On top of that, it was poorly executed.