Lowe’s Marisa Thalberg and Deutsch LA ECD Sorenne Gottlieb speaks to Laura Swinton about how the prolonged pandemic has changed our relationship with our home – and how that’s informed their festive advertising campaign ‘Make More Holiday’
The holiday period is a time for emotional and heartfelt advertising – even for a brand like Lowe’s, which is embedded in the deeply practical world of home improvement and DIY. After all, is there any impulse more deeply embedded in our animal brain than the desire to nest and to create a warm and welcoming home for our families, friends and loved ones?
After 20 months of a global pandemic, confronted with the suddenness with which our predictable lives can be disrupted, that impulse has only deepened. And according to Marisa Thalberg, Lowe’s executive vice president and chief brand and marketing officer, all of that has, in turn, changed the way that people rely upon and relate to the brand.
“Our homes have come to serve many more needs – practical and emotional - than ever before, and in the process our relationship with our homes has deepened. People are invested, and investing, to make their homes best suited to serve those needs in the immediate - and long-term. Through this period more and more people are seeing Lowe’s as an essential partner and resource in this, from casual DIY customers to the most experienced Pros, across every category of the home,” says Marisa. “We want our customers to feel inspired and empowered to make their spaces exactly what they need and want.
In that context, this year’s festive period carries a unique weight and significance. For many, it will be the first time they’ve felt able to host their loved ones in their home – and that of course means that they will be paying particular attention to creating a cosy environment. The audience is, by definition, people who like to ‘make’ and to solve issues, hence the festive campaign’s tagline ‘Make More Holiday’.
That insight hasn’t only informed the creative strategy for Lowe’s festive campaign but also its timing.
“After 20 months of life in a pandemic, we know consumers are looking at this holiday season as a opportunity to appreciate and to celebrate with loved ones. Our expectation is that consumers are starting to host once again, and whether in larger or more intimate ways, we know home will be the primary place for these holiday gatherings, so preparing homes for the holidays is a major behavior that we are seeing happen even earlier than before,” says Marisa. “Lowe’s anticipated this and we are prepared with holiday décor and gifts loaded into our stores early this year.”
Indeed, according to a recent survey carried out for Lowe’s, more than 90% of consumers are planning to spend as much, if not more, than last year on holiday gifts. Another study found more than half of consumers are planning to shop for these gifts before Thanksgiving. “That’s why this year we’re focused on taking the stress out of holiday shopping for our customers,” says Marisa. “We want them to enjoy their experience and focus on the things that make the holidays special for them, not stressful.”
When it came to developing the creative for the campaign, Marisa and her team had some very specific goals in mind. “People are eager to make up for the moments they might have missed last year. Our goal with the campaign was to make Lowe’s a holiday destination for holiday decor and gifting this season, helping our customers amplify the holiday experiences they crave. The idea of ‘Make More Holiday’ is a recognition of this, with a little nod to the “make” culture of our DIY customers. We also know how important the store can be as a memorable holiday shopping experience, for the whole family, at this time of year and we want to make sure we convey that.”
For the creative team at Deutsch, they had to find a way to distill that brief into an emotion and to weave out a story. According to Sorenne Gottlieb, EVP, executive creative director, Deutsch LA, they needed to find a way to represent people’s desire to come together with the Lowe brand and products.
And so the story of a group of lonely festive inflatables who drift together to make a large and welcoming family was born.
“We know this holiday season will be a significant one for people and felt there was a rich story to tell about the power of togetherness and what people will do to celebrate extra this year,” says Sorenne. “Making the most of the holidays really comes down to making moments that matter with those we care about. The campaign idea centered around this sentiment.”
With the story in place, the next challenge was to make sure that the emotion was truly captured in its execution – easier said that done when half of your cast are inanimate objects, the inflatable. The creative and production teams had to carefully select the best cast of characters that they could, and until they were able to get their hands on the inflatables, had to speculate about how they might look as they moved, and whether they could ‘emote’. “There was some trial to get their movement right,” says Sorenne.
With director Peter Thwaites on board, though, the story soon began to take shape, as he teased out the emotion from him wobbling, bobbling inflatable cast. “Peter had a lovely way of envisioning the inflatables to really have their own emotional lives — outside of the human experience,” says Sorenne. “They are witnessing these families gather and longing to be with them but feel highly invisible and can’t really understand their language. The thought was that the more we leaned into that separation, the more the audience would feel towards these characters. Peter came up with that idea of having a window shut — blocking out all the sound coming from inside — to really punctuate their loneliness.”
In order to capture that emotion, it was just as important to get the sound right as the visuals, which is where composer Dustin O’Halloran came into his own. ”[He] really hit on the full range of emotions from isolation to wonder to magic and finally joy. The music plays an important role in our story — helping to translate the emotion of our (otherwise) voiceless cast of characters.”
It really came down to bringing emotion to these inanimate objects, the inflatables. So, it was about selecting the best cast of characters and then seeing how they performed. Until our director and production team had a chance to work with them, we were just speculating how they might look moving. There was some trial and error to get their movement right.
This hero film feeds into the instore experience and the team have also created a complement of digital and social content to help amplify the ‘Make More Holiday’ message, while also showcasing Lowe’s as a convenient one stop shop for all their holiday needs.
Ultimately, the whole campaign is one that leans on emotion. As a home improvement retailer, Lowe’s also puts out a lot of content that’s designed to be educational and functional, helping people to navigate their DIY projects and make sure they’re approaching them correctly, but even in a category that is, in many ways, highly practical, there’s always a place for heart and warmth. And that counts double for the holidays.
“Human behavior is rarely just functionally-driven, and that is why I believe good marketing always has at minimum an emotional insight, and in the case of the range of our holiday work, you see it leveraged in our storytelling in some really big ways and in some more subtle ways,” says Marisa. “The holidays themselves touch many emotional chords in all of us, and more than ever this year, our customers are looking forward to the chance to create memories. Across the different parts of our campaign starting with our brand spot – which we created as a ‘holiday card’ to our customers, there is a charm and I hope emotional resonance with the moments we’ve depicted, that make you think of Lowe’s in all the right ways for holiday shopping.”