It’s Important for Brands to Listen To Customers And Their Own Conscience

TLC’s new show “All-American Muslim” is a nightmare for Lowe’s, and an example to other brands of what not to do.

The California-based home repair retailer was advertising during the reality-based program, until some racist wing nuts in Florida started making noise, which frightened Lowe’s into withdrawing its ads from the show. While it is true that listening to customers is important, a brand team has no business listening to a hate group.

According to Chicago Tribune:

Concerned the show presents Muslims as “ordinary folks,” the Florida Family Association sent out email alerts to supporters, calling it “propaganda” and encouraging them to forward prewritten emails of complaint to advertisers.

“Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show,” the group said on its website (which has since been taken down by hackers).

On Lowe’s Facebook page, the company says, “We have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, across our workforce and our customers.” There are 22,261 comments on their post at this time. Adweek, for one, points out how raging (and nasty) the debate is.

Here’s a comment from Lisa Reeves Williams: “Thank you Lowe’s for being an All American store! Yes you have the right NOT to advertise/sponsor a TV show and everyone has a right to act on their own beliefs in this great nation. I applaud your decision to pull your ad from the ‘All American Muslim’ show.”

Here’s a comment from Lena Khan: “Ace Hardware, here I come. Lowe’s, I have spent an absurd amount of money at your store because of my business. I will be taking my business elsewhere.”

Here’s a comment from Jill Gardner Lambert: “islam and America are NOT compatible…never ever will be…period.”

Here’s a comment from Jana Roberts: “A few measly people not shopping @ lowes is not going to hurt their business! I am proud that they stood up for what they believe. I have always & will continue to shop @ lowes!”

Did Lowe’s find itself in no-win situation here, forced to choose between pleasing xenophobes and Americans who believe in a multicultural, inclusive society?

Will this egg-on-the-face episode make an already conservative company, and others like it, even more conservative?

While Lowe’s is the clear loser here, Home Depot could step up and advertise on the new TLC program. Yes, that would be a bold move right now. Such is the nature of real time brand building and reputation management.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.