J.C. Penney is taking a beating. The granddaddy of all neighborhood department stores has just announced that it is going from “brand building” to “business building” to help shore-up sales. According to ADAge, Penney’s is moving a significant portion of its media spend from TV to newspaper (price-and-item retail circulars and inserts that my dad says are like “Cleaning a duck to get to the meat”).

Every marketer knows that business building is at the heart of brand building. The two are inseparable.

J.C. Penney brand building isn’t working because the brand went from a trustworthy family department store with great character to a faceless acronym. JCP. A short-cut to mediocrity that can’t help but impact the integrity of the brand and how its story is told.

Just take a look at this spot. You can insert any retailer’s logo at the end.

We’ve seen this kind of storytelling before. GAP. Old Navy. It’s void of branding for JCP. It could be anybody’s spot. Even mine. I like to have fun and be colorful.

Now, add to this lackluster pop portrayal a “hip” logo that looks more like a brand extension of Time magazine for juniors than a venerable retailer, and you can see how our trusted friend has lost its way: like too many grandpas who have headed down to the corner store only to wind-up on the outskirts of town.

The J.C. Penney name has stood for value and family values for a century. There are no shortcuts to that kind of brand equity. And you certainly won’t find it in acronym-inspired branding.

Which makes me want to LOL.