March’s Home-Improvement Madness

Like most Americans, the editorial staff of HCN has been watching a lot of basketball lately. It’s all part of the national tradition known as March Madness, the 64-team single-elimination tournament designed to break your heart and bust your bracket.

Our friends at B&B Lumber in Wichita, Kan., will certainly agree: It was punishing to watch top-seed Wichita State fall to basketball-Kentucky. Our friends at Forge Lumber in Cincinnati can’t be happy about Univ. of Cincy’s loss to the rich kids at Harvard. And our friends at Zarsky Lumber all over Texas I’m sure would have liked nothing better than to see their beloved Longhorns advance to the Sweet 16. But sadly, it’s not going to happen.

All over the country we have friends who watched their teams wipe away tears at the final buzzer. 

Piling on top of the disappointment for home-improvement-minded television viewers of March Madness is Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe’s latest batch of commercials played seemingly incessantly during breaks in the action. The company’s latest campaign deserves a technical foul for conduct unbecoming a DIY retailer.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this forum has applauded Lowe’s commercials in recent years. For instance, we loved Lowe’s catchy, lighthearted, “Don’t Stop” commercial that celebrated the growth of families and the various stages of home improvement. Watch it here. 

And when the retailer had fun with a more testosterone-fueled commercial, we described it as a muscle-flexing marketing move. Watch it here.

But notice what’s happening here in this 30-second spot from the new Lowe’s “Need Help” campaign.

The commercials showcase extremely high production values, excellent special effects and artful comedic timing. The actors are great, too. And the concept of Lowe’s as a source of home improvement help is an important one for Lowe’s to advance as it transitions to a 24-hours-per-day-seven-days per-week home improvement company -- not just a home-improvement retailer. 

In addition to a commercial about a failed ceiling-fan installation, there’s one about a failed bathroom-tile installation. And then there’s a bench-swing assembly that goes terribly wrong.

And that’s what worries me. The spots seem to promote the idea that a DIY project is likely to end in frustration, expense, waste and -- in extreme cases -- a fan being thrown through a glass window in anger. Of course, that’s not the intended message. But the commercials clearly connect DIY with HID (home improvement disaster).   

Maybe I’m being overly sensitive. But home improvement, we can all agree, is fun and rewarding. Lowe’s does a great job online, on Facebook on Pinterest and on Twitter promoting rewarding, fun home improvement projects. Here’s another example. 

But does the “Need Help” campaign fire you up about starting that next home improvement project? 

I don’t think so. Especially when there are so many good games on.