You know by now that Lowe’s Home Improvement has pulled its advertising from TLC’s new reality show, “All-American Muslim.” As an expert in brand public relations and the Muslim consumer market, here are my thoughts:
What’s done is done. Even if Lowe’s would do it, I don’t see any point in its trying to reinstate its spots during the show. If you have a conviction, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, you might as well stick to it in cases like these. The damage is already done, and the best thing to do now is to move on and try to carefully rebuild a relationship with the American Muslim community, as well as many others who see pulling the ads as a bad PR move and out of touch with American values.
This controversy represents a teachable moment for other retailers and brands as they slowly, but surely, start to see the value in reaching America’s growing minority and multicultural consumer groups. This particular instance validates that not only are Muslim consumers important for what they buy, but they’re also important for what they don’t buy.
Carefully weigh your options before making a hasty decision. Big companies like Lowe’s are used to controversy and are the subject of boycotts and pressure from special interest groups every day. Though I can’t speak to how much thought went into the decision to pull the ads, one lesson here is to carefully consider the credibility of the individuals or companies doing the complaining in the first place. Often, we see a lot of noise from groups who aren’t even shoppers at the company in question. Corporate America must determine who of its diverse customer base may be affected by its decisions and what implications those may have.
It always disappoints me to see well-meaning companies get caught up in controversies and boycotts such as these, but in many cases they can be avoided with a little understanding. Had Lowe’s had a better understanding of the Muslim consumer market and been fully aware of the potential for backlash, its decision regarding advertising may have been entirely different.
So, does Lowe’s have any chance of winning back the Muslim community and how can this type of controversy be avoided by other companies? If Lowe’s were a client, here is what we would recommend to them (and others) for starters:
It may take Lowe’s a long time to clean up the mess it has made in its aisles with Muslims, but with the right approach, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the current outlook, Lowe’s now has a big opportunity to re-establish itself as a company that welcomes and values all customers, while trying to rebuild a relationship with the Muslim community.