Lowe’s marketing chief on the permanence of DIY habits, purpose and the American Dream
With the US on the verge of ‘reopening,’ Wall Street has had its eye on Lowe’s. The question at hand: will strong home improvement sales continue when we are all freed from our homes? Lowe’s marketing chief Marisa Thalberg discusses how, during the brand’s 100th year of existence, it is working to nurture sales, dreams of the perfect home and neighborhoods in need.
Lowe's looks to keep DIY projects in vogue as consumers attention shifts outside of the home.
The concept of home has taken on an entirely new meaning during lockdown. Many of us have been working to fix, and improve, our domiciles inside and out. Now, with the CDC declaring that vaccinated individuals can gather indoors without masks, this dynamic is about to change.
With potentially slower sales and higher interest rates on the horizon, Lowe’s is gearing up to launch new efforts designed to celebrate the home as well as to give back to hometowns across America.
The new “Home to any possibility” campaign, which will debut on Wednesday, is meant to continue to inspire the do-it-yourself culture that has taken hold. It features an array of families, literally, building their dream homes. “At the heart of every American Dream is a home and the desire to make it be everything we need it to be, that’s always been at the heart of Lowe’s,” is the emotive message created by Deutsch LA. The new spot was produced by The Director’s Bureau and directed by Roman Coppola. It will run across TV, social and digital.
Lowe’s executive vice president/chief brand and marketing officer Marisa Thalberg says, “The big insight of ‘20 is that homes are being stretched and adapted in a way that we might not have ever expected. Certainly, as the world opens back up we know that people will be out of their homes more. But we also believe that this relationship with the home isn't necessarily ephemeral. It's our job to continue to inspire people with the possibilities, inspire the DIY culture, and offer the goods and services that let you know if you don't want to do it yourself we're here for you too. I feel really confident in our ability to create that continued momentum, excitement and emotional connection.”
It could be an uphill battle, says Robert Passikoff, president of the brand consultancy Brand Keys. “After the world opens up, there will be 100 other things people will want to spend their money on. There’s a greater part of the human spirit that wants to get out of the house.” He also points to broadened competition from Wal-Mart and Costco. Then, of course, there is the No. 1 home improvement player Home Depot.
Still, Wall Street remains bullish. The retailer has had had five quarters of profit growth in the double digits and it reported a 28.1% increase in same store sales for its fourth quarter. Barron’s even announced “Lowe’s can win the reopening, too. It’s a stock to buy.”
Bringing brand purpose to ‘100 hometowns’
Aside from the home taking on new value during the pandemic, so has the impact of brand purpose. Numerous studies, including most recently this Gartner report, show that consumers expect civic engagement and leadership from brands. They will often in turn vote with their wallets for brands that align with their values.
Recognizing this while embracing its roots as a neighborhood brand, Lowe’s is launching its “100 Hometowns” initiative today. Consumers can go to lowes.com/100hometowns to nominate a hometown project in need. Lowe’s has vowed to spend $10 million to complete 100 eligible project types including improving parks, senior centers and neighborhood housing as well as supporting cultural preservation and area revitalization.
“We didn’t want our 100th birthday to be a moment of self-congratulations,” says Thalberg who joined Lowe’s early last year from Taco Bell. “We wanted to use it as a moment to reflect on where we come from, and just as importantly, as a moment to set our course for the next 100 years.” She notes that Lowe’s has rallied around communities throughout the pandemic and plans to continue to do so.
The first project will be renovating the Boys and Girls Club in Chattanooga, Tenn. Country music star Kane Brown nominated the club which was an important part of his youth. As was Lowe’s where he worked in the paint department before hitting it big.
“As marketer it has to come from an authentic place,” says Thalberg. “I was interviewed as the pandemic was hitting and was asked: ‘what do you think is changing?’ I said that I really believe that this was going to be one of those times where all the things we've been telling each other in the industry, like purpose matters, will happen. Push came to shove, and it was time to actually do it, and demonstrate it, in ways that are real and ways that matter. That’s why ‘100 Hometowns’ just feels like the right thing to do as an organization. I can't wait to see this get out into the world and make a difference.”