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November 7, 2011
Lowe's 'Never Stop Improving' Needs Improving

I love this spot! I hate this spot! Let me explain my love-hate relationship with this Lowe’s "Never Stop Improving" commercial.

As a creative, I love everything about it — the music, the dancing, the choreography, the emotional journey called life, you name it. I could watch it over and over again. To be honest, I have. It’s the kind of spot that makes creatives and agencies cheer.

As a marketer, I hate everything about it. The spot and the slogan, “Never Stop Improving,” are positioned all wrong. Is it 1999? That’s what this commercial feels like. The implied message is that times are good and we’re enjoying life.

But where are we right now? Times are bad and life sucks. We’ve got Occupy Wall Street, unrest in the streets, and the burning issue of the day is jobs, jobs, jobs. 

Now, I can sense creatives taking offense. The spot is aspirational. Indeed, it is, but it’s so far from reality that I don’t think the target audience can relate to it.

Lowe’s press release announcing the new brand positioning offers a counter position.

“The research shows that the new brand position and advertising campaign make Lowe’s customers feel motivated, inspired, confident, and energized,” said Tom Lamb, senior vice president of marketing and advertising for Lowe’s.

If I’m sitting in a focus group chatting and eating snacks and I know I’m getting $30 for attending, I’m feeling pretty good about life. Back home alone, it’s a whole different story.

Lamb also stated in the release, “Our new campaign is our brand promise and our rallying cry for employees as we bring a continual stream of innovations to market over the next several years.”

Now that part about being a rallying cry for employees, I buy that. “Never Stop Improving” is an excellent message for employees.

That gets me thinking about two people I truly admire: Steve Jobs and Bill Bernbach. I heard Jobs’ biographer express Jobs’ disdain for research by his view that people don’t know what they want until we create it. I think he’s right. I read a quote once by Bill Bernbach that the best advertising is reflective of society. I think he’s right. 

My point is, developing and delivering products is fundamentally different from marketing them to the outside world.  

Is there an account planner reading this? Weigh in, please, with a comment. I really think account planners have something to add regarding Lowe’s positioning.

If Lowe’s is positioned wrong, who in the category of home improvement is positioned right? Home Depot! “More saving. More doing.” is spot on. Frugal is in. Value is what resonates. There are also more do-it-yourselfers due to tighter finances and fewer people moving. Homeowners stay and want to improve. Home Depot is pitch-perfect in my book.

Lowe’s and Home Deport will report third-quarter results soon. Let’s see if performance or a lack of hitting the numbers is blamed on sales and marketing.

From what I’ve seen from Lowe’s, “Improving Home Improvement,” “Let’s build something together,” and now “Never Stop Improving,” I’m certain of one thing. Lowe’s is not afraid to change what’s not working. 

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Mike Ogden is a digital/senior writer based in Kansas City. Ad agency stops have enabled him to create for major brands like American Century, Capital One, Sprint, and USAA. Seasoned and sharp with a touch of gray, Ogden, aka Og, is known for creating and championing ideas. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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