21
28
Gini Dietrich

Lowe’s Caves to Pressure without Strategy

By: Gini Dietrich | December 21, 2011 | 
89

Have you heard about Lowe’s pulling their advertising from the TLC program, “All-American Muslim?”

The story goes like this: Lowe’s was advertising on The Learning Channel. As part of their media buy, their ads aired during the new reality show.

A conservative group, The Florida Family Association, complained.

According to the Associated Press, the group called the show:

Propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.

Riiiiight. 

I’ve not seen the show, but I saw it previewed before it began. According to what I saw, the families highlighted are, well, reality show material.

They’re not terrorists. They’re not anti-American. If anything, they represent all that is crazy about our country. You know, the Kardashian, train wreck kind of crazy.

But Lowe’s gave in to pressure from The Florida Family Association and pulled its ads. During an interview, they said:

Our decision was not political, it was not social in any way. We just knew that it was a controversial program and we wanted to reach consumers. A controversial program is not a great place to do that.

I see. So a reality show that follows five families who, are teachers, coaches, and policemen and represent a teeny, tiny minority of the Muslim population in America is a controversial show.

Let’s switch gears for a second.

Do you remember a little more than a year ago when Gap crowdsourced a new logo and launched to a myriad of complaints?

Yes, the complaints came from the very vocal blogosphere. People, who, by the accounts of Gap, are not customers. Yet they gave in, pulled their new logo out of circulation, and stayed with the original.

Later, a poll was done and Gap realized their customers either a) didn’t know they had launched a new logo or b) just didn’t care and continued to shop there.

It’s hard when you’re in the thick of things to ignore the vocal minority. I’ve had my own instances where one or two people, who have incredible reach, have tried to get me to change a blog post or reverse my view on something. It plain old sucks.

But that’s why strategy is so important. If Gap had been able to say, “Look. We know you don’t like our new logo, but you’re not our customer. The reason we’re doing this is XYZ.” Then they would have been done with it. Instead they caved.

Same thing with Lowe’s. Do they really think this show is anti-American and represents terrorists? I doubt it.

They caved to a very vocal, but minority representation of their customer. In fact, I’d love to know if the people behind this “anti-American” campaign even shop at Lowe’s.

You rarely do any advertising without a strategy. It’s too bad they couldn’t grow a thick skin and stick by the business reasons for advertising on TLC and during “All-American Muslim.” If anything, their decision to pull the ads makes me not want to shop there, not herald them for their decision.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

82 comments
KatherineBull
KatherineBull

I've actually watched several episodes and they are not at all like the Kardashians. It is more about living as Muslim in America (hence the title) but it is done in a thoughtful, respectful way. I've learned quite a lot from it.

OneJillian
OneJillian

cost-cutting catch22: what if we need more than graphics from our agency? \/\/ @ginidietrich Lowe's Caves w\/o Strategy http:\/\/t.co\/AnO4Y56F

djfunkyslick1
djfunkyslick1

Gini:

I work for Lowes and I can tell you the backlash has been 10x worse then one little letter from some group. We recently received communication from the "gods" of advertising explaining their decision. The goal to reach customers of course being front and center. My question to them was, what about all of the Muslims in my district that but Lowes?
I found it to not only be an anti-American move, but very premature on Lowes part. Of course banning all of us from speaking to the media is their protection. Every store in my district has Muslim shoppers.....and regardless; if your goal is to reach customers, then it should be ALL customers. They were very reactionary and not startegic at all as you so clearly point out....well done!

TylerOrchard
TylerOrchard

@ginidietrich thinking? I don't know if that word was even passed around the boardroom. They were a puppet of a ideological view.

danieleagee
danieleagee

@ginidietrich The thought is that most of their customers are conservative, not liberal. I'll be shocked if this hurts sales at all.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

It gets worse if you think about it some. Lowe's advertises pretty heavily on TLC, so some of their ads probably air during "Toddlers & Tiaras". Contrast that with their statement:

"We just knew that it was a controversial program and we wanted to reach consumers. A controversial program is not a great place to do that."

How much complaining, and in what form, is necessary to make something "controversial"? How does something rise to meet their attention and/or threshold for pulling ads?

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV

I think it is funny how many companies are doing the "Throw the line in the water thing, and then react to the crowds response"

Did we forget the whole know your customer, know your market, know your values, know your vision thing?

Are we so desperate for reach and metrics that we will sell our souls?

Lowes is in a lot of trouble and this is one of the reasons why.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

I suppose with the ongoing severe fracturing of our marketplace into consumer groups that have ultra specialized tastes and beliefs that it will become increasingly difficult for companies to react when there is controversy for fear of not fully understanding what power a certain group wields on the influence of the market as a whole. From reading the comments below, it appears that the Florida Family Association is rather extreme and out of whack with their views so probably should not have been considered a threat that could fuel a bigger backlash against the core Lowe's customer base.

You're right about companies needing to have thicker skins (like, the ice level of a frozen Canadian pond in the dead of winter thick) when it comes to advertising and stop daintily tip toeing around for fear of upsetting a few when their goal is to reach their mass core audience, which it appears that Lowe's was a little foggy about exactly who they were. Who exactly is steering this ship at Lowe's?

TheJackB
TheJackB

Lowes was foolish and their response was ridiculous. I am not a fan of knee jerk reactions and to a large extent that is what this was. They could and should have anticipated this reaction and then planned for it.

It would have saved them a lot of trouble.

Latest blog post: Blogging Is Not An Obligation

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

I spent $700 at Home Depot instead of at Lowes in the past week because of this story. I'm remodeling a downstairs bathroom and was going to buy from Lowes -- I like the local one's service and products a little better -- but chose Home Depot instead after I heard about this. As a woman of Jewish heritage, I'm a little sensitive to antisemitism, which is EXACTLY what Islamophobia is.

I'm going to send Lowes a copy of my $700 receipt from Home Depot and let them know they are welcome to charge that loss to whichever moron decided that it would be a good idea to attack Muslims and then just dig the hole deeper in "explaining" it. American Muslims are my brothers and sisters, and they are also fellow Semitic people of a non-majority faith in America. Attack them, and you lose my business, quite likely permanently.

jenzings
jenzings

Echoing @jacque_PR , I think the Moron Award must be coveted.

The entire Lowe's flap was so completely, utterly, avoidable. And the Facebook apology was beyond stupid, because once it was posted there every conceivable type of nut came out of the woodwork, causing Lowe's to COMPOUND the problem by not moderating incredibly hateful crap. (They answered with wanting to remain transparent in social media, a truly baffling misunderstanding of social. You should not delete comments on a FB page just because they are critical of the company. You can AND SHOULD moderate the page so that offensive stuff doesn't take hold.)

They managed to create not one, but two separate PR crises based on this. I'm really, really surprised.

CourtV
CourtV

@ginidietrich Ha! Well you kind of see my face on the thumbnails :) Would love 2 plan a trip to Chi-town sometime soon - u can be my excuse!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@djfunkyslick1 Wow. I thought I was about to get a tongue lashing. I totally agree with you - it should be ALL customers. The fact that this organization said the show is anti-American and asked all the advertisers to pull... and then Lowe's did...says more about the leadership than anything. What a sad state.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@danielnewmanUV So many business leaders are saying, "Get us a Facebook page!" Or "Check out this Google+ thing" and people are doing it without regard to what it really means. The whole customer, market, values, vision thing is forgotten online. It's weird.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John_Trader1 I know how hard it is to stay the course and manage a strategy when you have such vocal outreach. But, if you know your strategy and are confident in how minor the vocals are, you can address it with, "We hear you, but this is our strategy so we're staying the course."

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jenzings Great point about creating a separate crisis on FB. AllFacebook is keeping a running tab of the more than 12,000 comments. It's kind of funny, if you have 15 minutes to spare.

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

@TheJackB Oh, really? Care to explain what the difference is between two examples of hateful, bigoted rhetoric advocating for the extermination of a Semitic ethnic group and that group's religious practices? I'm from Colorado. We have Tom "Bomb Mecca" Tancredo here, and we elected him to Congress, repeatedly. Trust me on this one. The hatred comes from the same place, and it will lead if unchecked TO the same place.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich@jenzings it was over 24,000 comments and worse was half were Americans being racists. Racism is alive and well in the US. Hope america is proud.

KatSKrieger
KatSKrieger

@ginidietrich Yes please! You could sell it too and make royalties every time one gets awarded...you'd be rich tomorrow!!

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

@ginidietrich@TheJackB How about without the use of contractors who mix tile set in my kitchen pots and pans without asking first? I need to read that one.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@jelenawoehr Ah, see we still disagree here. The fact that you haven't experienced any hostility doesn't mean that it doesn't exist or has gone away. Discrimination doesn't die because we don't hear or see it.

When people don't know your background they often speak very differently than when they know who you are.

Some words do evolve but it doesn't happen just because we want it to or think that it should. There is no reason to try and misappropriate the word when it doesn't fit. We already established that the largest population of Muslims is in Indonesia. They aren't Semitic people.

Your effort to intentionally mischaracterize and misuse the word is exclusionary and creates problems that should never exist.

When we talk about Islamophobia it is understood that we are talking about a fear of Islam. When we talk about why it is unreasonable and shouldn't happen we understand. The operative word in that last sentence is "we" because we need the message to be understood not garbled.

Latest blog post: Bitter Dad Blogger Bites Back

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

@TheJackB I disagree with you there. Words evolve over time, and I have yet to face anywhere near the level of hostility for my Jewish heritage that my Muslim friends face for theirs. If anyone has a right today to "the effect of its proper use" (that is, to connect a behavior with the shocking and horrifying atrocities perpetuated by antisemites) it is Muslims. A coordinated campaign against antisemitism by most of the world for the last 70 years has made it very possible to be "openly Jewish" and never face any sort of discrimination in America. Muslims deserve the same, and I don't see why they should have to start over in building awareness when there is already a term that applies to the same behavior, against nearly ethnically identical people, for the same reasons, that has already been inserted into the public's consciousness as wrong and unacceptable.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@jelenawoehr We agree that Lowes is wrong, but words are important and significant which is why I pointed out that you used antisemitism incorrectly. It is not the proper use of the term and incorrect use minimizes the effect of its proper use.

Latest blog post: Bitter Dad Blogger Bites Back

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

@TheJackB I think we'll have to agree to disagree here. There are non-semitic Jews as well (in fact, I'm descended from non-semitic Russian Jews), but they are also included when antisemitism is discussed. The reality, though, is that hijacking the conversation with nitpicking about the terminology I choose takes away from the most important point here: Lowes chose to cave to the demands of a hate organization whose entire purpose is to advocate against gays, Muslims, and other minority groups. Therefore, Lowes deserves a Moron Award and does not deserve my business.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@jelenawoehr Jelena, I don't want to hijack the thread so I'll keep this short. In terms of population Indonesia is home to the largest number of Muslims in the world. They are not semitic.

From a historical perspective if you search for antisemitism the reference is towards Jews. There has been a minor virtually inconsequential effort to include Arabs as part of that, but that is really inaccurate and purely political.

I am in agreement with you that advocate hatred and genocide is wrong, but Islamophobia and antisemitism are not the same thing and should not be discussed as if they are.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] to a vocal group with certain ideological views. Recently, and well summed up by Gini Dietrich, Lowe’s caved to pressure from the Florida Family Association to remove its advertising during the TLC program, All-American [...]

  2. [...] and moral compass. We have recently witnessed the power that expectations can wield. One being the Lowe’s fiasco and the more recent Chiquita Banana [...]

  3. [...] to a vocal group with certain ideological views. Recently, and well summed up by Gini Dietrich, Lowe’s caved to pressure from the Florida Family Association to remove its advertising during the TLC program, All-American [...]

  4. [...] and moral compass. We have recently witnessed the power that expectations can wield. One being the Lowe’s fiasco and the more recent Chiquita Banana [...]