Is Lowe’s doing it right with its new tagline?

Photo: Lowe’s
Jan 09, 2019
Matthew Stern

As Lowe’s Hardware struggles to turn itself around and get out of Home Depot’s shadow, it is branding itself with a new tagline that has struck some as a little familiar.

The chain unveiled its new slogan, “Do It Right For Less,” last week on an investor presentation according to a Bloomberg article, which further observed that the new Lowe’s tagline is not all that far off from Home Depot’s “More Saving. More Doing.” The similarity in the appeal to price and productivity draws attention to the fact that the chain is now helmed by CEO Marvin Ellison, who spent years in upper-level positions at Home Depot (until leaving that chain for J.C. Penney in 2014).  

The new branding isn’t the first change that Mr. Ellison has made since joining Lowe’s.

In August of 2018, Mr. Ellison announced the closure of all 99 of Lowe’s Orchard Hardware Supply stores and the sub-brand’s distribution center. He referred to Lowe’s acquisition of the failing chain previous to his tenure as a mistake. The move indicated to some that Mr. Ellison had learned a lesson about the importance of closing underperforming locations, after failing to do so while CEO of J.C. Penney.

Mr. Ellison has also made some behind-the-scenes changes to the home improvement chain. In July of 2018, he introduced a new organizational structure that eliminated a few major c-suite roles and others, including EVP of supply chain and EVP of stores.

Before Mr. Ellison’s arrival and dating back to the earlier part of the decade, Lowe’s had been trying to take a high-tech tack to transcend the number two spot in home improvement. The 2014 pilot of OSHBot promised a new kind of robot-facilitated customer service for shoppers. The retailer’s Innovation Lab also developed tools like the Lowe’s Holoroom VR solution for interior design. The chain was also an early explorer of the small, localized urban concept, which other chains like Target have used with success.  

But the tech investments didn’t seem to boost the bottom line. In 2018, customers purchased lower-margin goods and made use of home delivery, which ate into profits.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think Lowe’s under Marvin Ellison is developing a unique point of difference in its daily competition with Home Depot? Will Lowe’s marketing emphasis as captured in its tagline help in those efforts?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"If Lowe’s can fulfill this 'Do It Right For Less' brand promise, they will certainly regain what they have lost. This will be one to continue to watch."
"I worked on this brand for years, both as a consultant and within their ad agency — and this change in tagline makes me so, so sad."
"Lowe’s business struggles relative to Home Depot mostly because they lack strong contractor sales that Depot receives."

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23 Comments on "Is Lowe’s doing it right with its new tagline?"

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Mark Ryski

It appears that Lowe’s is playing “me too” with Home Depot. While Ellison may be making changes behind the scenes, not much has changed for the consumer. While taglines can be useful in creating an image, it won’t translate into business results unless it reflects a meaningful benefit to the consumer and is then backed up by a store experience that actually delivers as proof –- without backing up the promise, taglines are hollow, meaningless words.

Jeff Sward

Distinction is essential in a highly competitive environment. But distinction driven by price carries its own downside — literally — in margins. “Doing it right” offers better long-term prospects for loyalty. Become the “Genius Bar” for home project solutions. Home Depot will not make it easy.

Dr. Stephen Needel

Seems like the opposite – that Lowe’s is becoming more like its competition and given the (low) quality of its employees — not the most knowledgeable people in the business — that’s not a good strategy. At least here in Atlanta you don’t go to Lowe’s if you need help, you go because they have something you need on sale.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

Closing under-performing stores is the nature of retail. Given the increasing importance of customer experience, an EVP of stores makes sense. EVP of supply chain also provides appropriate focus on in-stock availability and click and collect fulfillment. However, it is very hard/impossible to differentiate your brand based upon “saving more” without accelerating the trend of customers shopping on price. With the new EVPs why not focus on customer experience and service excellence?

Phil Masiello

I do think that Marvin Ellison is going to have an impact. As a user of both Home Depot and Lowe’s, I have noticed some changes for the better in the last six months. There are some quality differences between the two chains with Lowe’s seemingly focusing in on that attribute.

If Lowe’s can fulfill this “Do It Right For Less” brand promise, they will certainly regain what they have lost. This will be one to continue to watch.

Neil Saunders

There is nothing wrong with the new tagline, but it does not differentiate Lowe’s in any way – indeed, it’s very much in line with Home Depot. What’s needed is real change on the shop floor – better stock levels, more focus on inspiration and projects, and better seasonal assortments. If Lowe’s gets the basics right it will perform better, it then has a platform on which to build some sustainable points of difference from its larger rival.

Ananda Chakravarty

Lowe’s has been an innovator in using tech and that will continue in some form or another. The removal of underperformers works. The new slogan hits home with the do-it-yourself customer but also for the customer who needs a bit of handholding. Emphasizing the expertise at Lowe’s with the “do it right” part of its messaging is a powerful push to highlight the workforce’s ability to also help the customer and higher quality outcomes for projects — a different story than its competitors. Unique — maybe not. Properly targeted — definitely.

Mark Heckman
One of the less “transformative” contributions an ad agency can make on their client’s behalf is to provide a brand new, focus-group tested tag line without an executional plan behind it. While it makes everyone in the C-suite feel good about themselves for a short period of time, unless there are real, tangible elements evident in the stores and online which support the tag line, it’s largely a waste of time and money. My sense with Lowe’s is that they do have an opportunity to emerge out of the shadow of Home Depot, by focusing on in-store expertise and improving their current deplorable e-commerce platform. Having a good compliment of “experts” in each area of the store, readily available for advice and project consultation could provide positive marketshare movement, at least among us amateurs as we walk into a store that showcases a sea of options and complexities. Such a plan would likely involve more training and a new compensation structure. Secondly, they need to spend whatever it takes to become a truly integrated omni-channel… Read more »
Bob Phibbs

It’s not as bad as Got Hardware but just as derivative. Marketing leads the charge in standing out from competitors, it appears these guys just phoned it in.

Cynthia Holcomb

Lowes, like Home Depot, offers a broad offering of products. Builders and tradespeople fill the parking lots daily. A given. The real action is in home, women, and design. While we can discuss lumber all day, what will drive new, repeat customers to Lowe’s is to focus on the home. Home Depot has stepped up it’s home game in the past couple of years. Offering lighting, carpet, tile, paint, etc., reflective of current modern trends. Prior to Ellison, Lowe’s was on that path. Under Ellison, the path is now watered down. Home remodeling projects are the opportunity for homeowners to express their vision of home on a budget. Home Depot is capturing this market. See the difference, shop lighting in both stores.

Liz Adamson

A me-too tagline is not going to do much if anything in the competition between Lowe’s and Home Depot. To stand out Lowe’s will need to innovate and find ways to improve the customer experience. It could be enhancing the in-store or online experience. Faster delivery or pick up. Access to home improvement experts to help with projects and so on. Marvin Ellison should be thinking outside the box and coming up with new ideas that have the potential to shake up the home improvement industry, not knocking off existing ideas.

Ed Rosenbaum

Honestly, the new tag line does not do much for me; or make me more likely to shop at Lowe’s. The new tag line does little more than saying “me too” as the little brother tries to catch up with his big brother.
Mr. Ellison made the right decision choosing to close Orchard Hardware. I was never sure why they went in that direction to begin with. In this case, he might want to look for a more creative ad agency.

Doug Garnett

Lowe’s business struggles relative to Home Depot mostly because they lack strong contractor sales that Depot receives. In fact, around the time of recession, when contractor sales fell, Lowe’s was perceived as doing better. As contractor sales came back, Home Depot is now perceived as doing better.

It would be an extraordinary day when a tagline change affected much, anyway. It’s even more concerning that the tagline change is the verbal equivalent of taking a distinctive logo and making it blandly san serif (as we’ve recently seen Burberry and many others do).

I doubt that this will affect their business either way. And it’s sad to see their advertising department (faced with very serious challenges elsewhere) put so much work into a tagline then only come up with something so bland.

Lee Peterson

Ellison is all about “focusing on the fundamentals” (see his talk at NRF this year) and that’s not all that Lowe’s needs right now. I get it, they were a little off track, but the idea of failing fast and moving to the next thing needs to permeate their culture or Big Orange is going to steam roll them right out of existence.

We always thought that Lowe’s was for the DIYer, and especially female friendly, and Home Depot was for the pro, and that seemed to work for both — and in my mind, still could. But going toe-to-toe on your brand promise with someone that does it better? Sounds good to Boomer board members, but is risky business IMO.

Does this remind anyone else of Staples vs. Office Depot/Max, or what? With the more recognizable, trusted, forward thinking brand slowly but surely squeezing the life out of the copy cats? Seems like a replay to me.

Brian Kelly
2 months 12 days ago
We do what we know. That’s the Peter Principle before you get to “we reach our level of incompetence.” Ellison did what he knew at J.C. Penney. Appliances. Holiday decomp: 5.4 percent.Uuh, yeah appliances. Now he is reassembling the Home Depot band at Lowe’s. Will he meaningfully differentiate Lowe’s and create a relevant selling model? DIY splits between projects behind and in front of the wall. Home Depot owned behind the wall and with it heavy DIY/construction. Lowe’s owned in front of the wall and with it light DIY/decor. It worked until Nardelli took his eye off the ball and Home Depot stores got dangerous to shop. Blake came in and refocused on BOTH sides of the wall. Bringing Martha Stewart in was a tactic to become more relevant to lite DIY/women. And he changed the tagline from “You can do it. We can help” to “More Doing. More Saving” Won on assortment and price. Plus brought back tradesmen associates to restore knowledge. While Lowe’s lost its way during the mortgage collapse as it struggled… Read more »
Lee Kent

It sort of felt like Mr Ellison jumped ship and ran from J.C. Penney only to take old tricks to Lowe’s. With that, I am not very optimistic. It’s time to step outside the box and bring more than a new tag line to the brand. For my 2 cents.

Dave Bruno

I think Lowe’s has it half right: the “Do it Right” half is the part that offers them an opportunity to differentiate. Of course, that would require them to actually live up to that promise, but first things first — create experiences that actually help people get things right. If they do that, price will become much less important — to customers and their tag line.

We have all experienced the challenges of DIY projects, and expertise in the aisles can be an invaluable asset to every shopper, no matter their expertise level. If Lowe’s can deliver usable, reliable content and build trust that associates in the aisles are knowledgeable and accurate, then “Do it Right” can help them grow.

Rich Kizer

Just one point: If the slogan is “Do It Right For Less,” does that tell customers the price is better? That’s dangerous. Not the best, and it probably forces the retailer to unnecessarily shave margins on some items to keep the promise?

Craig Sundstrom

I take exception to Matt’s first line, “turn itself around.” This is a $60B+ company with steadily growing sales and profits. There are a lot of companies — GAP, JCP, etc. — that need to “turn (themselves) around” … this isn’t one of them.

But back to the question, is this a good tag line? It sounds like they’re trying to go on low price, which is always a perilous path to travel, particularly if you really aren’t the lowest. So if that’s the whole strategy, then I don’t think it’s the right approach. But I doubt it is: frankly, it sounds like a placeholder motto until they find something better.

Laura Davis-Taylor

I worked on this brand for years, both as a consultant and within their ad agency — and this change in tagline makes me so, so sad. “Never Stop Improving” has been one of the most iconic, understandable and plausible “True North” (as BBDO calls it) statements I’ve ever seen. I think this new tagline is 100% about the new leadership’s desire to mark their tree, not the need for a new tagline. It says three things at once and puts their brand into murky waters against the competition.

Harley Feldman

Ellison is making a mistake with the new tagline and focus. It sounds like “come to Lowe’s because we will undercut Home Depot’s prices, and we will be similar to Home Depot.” There is nothing in the tagline that will distinguish Lowe’s from Home Depot. The tagline should have been focused on why a shopper should go to Lowe’s and not Home Depot. This tagline will not provide the vision for the consumer as to why they should shop at Lowe’s and not Home Depot.

Carol Udell

Investing in innovative technology is a wise decision. Some decisions will pay off immediately and others may take time. However, technology requires updates in infrastructure and this facilitates better data collection and better decisions. Companies that fail to invest in technology will find it harder and harder to compete over time.

gordon arnold

Lowe’s inventory and special order product line is more expensive than the Home Depot. This has always been the big reason for them lagging behind. Lowe’s does not understand the necessary add-on sales for whole job purchases. The focus is and will be turn, profit margin and cost. I just wonder why the new management team doesn’t give clothing a try, like Ellison did with Penney’s getting into large appliances and tools.

"If Lowe’s can fulfill this 'Do It Right For Less' brand promise, they will certainly regain what they have lost. This will be one to continue to watch."
"I worked on this brand for years, both as a consultant and within their ad agency — and this change in tagline makes me so, so sad."
"Lowe’s business struggles relative to Home Depot mostly because they lack strong contractor sales that Depot receives."

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