I think we’re reaching a phase where people are looking to grow relationships and connect meaningfully during this difficult time. Lowe’s takes great pride in being a business that empowers the spirit of do-it-yourself, but as we navigate this pandemic, there has never been a more important time for us to do-it-together. Just a couple weeks ago, we started to see customers creating signs using materials around their homes to share messages of hope and gratitude for the many heroes of this pandemic. We recognized that we could help put a spotlight on their efforts by inviting more people to join using #BuildThanks and share our DIY knowledge to inspire others to come together for a moment of collective thanks.
As a part of our series called “Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel: 5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”, I had the pleasure to interview Marisa Thalberg, Lowe’s new EVP, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer. Marisa is a world-class marketer and leader, bringing innovation and fresh thinking to inspire and connect customers. For more than 25 years she has led marketing and brand transformations and spearheaded groundbreaking campaigns that make a lasting impact on the world around us. Marisa was formerly the global chief brand officer of Taco Bell and joined home improvement retailer Lowe’s in February. At Taco Bell, she led the transformation of the company to become a culture-centric lifestyle brand, leading to record-breaking sales growth and category share gains. Thalberg has been named one of Forbes’ Top 50 CMOs in the World for the past three years and a National Retail Federation power player. She also founded Executive Moms, an organization for working mothers. Thalberg is a graduate of Brown University where she graduated magna cum laude.
Thank you so much for joining us, Marisa! Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
From a young age, I had a fascination with all forms of marketing and communications, as I saw them representing an intersection between business, psychology and culture. With all of the ways in which the world and our industry has changed since, the intersection of those three forces is still what excites me about this career today. I love the challenge of using both sides of my brain — being analytic, strategic, competitive… but mixing it with the magic of creativity to create moments of emotional connection that, at their best, really surprise and excite people. I also believe that, today more than ever as trust has increasingly moved from civic and political leaders to companies and brands, there is a responsibility to really steward the relationship between a brand and its consumers, communities and employees with a sense of greater purpose.
Is there a particular person that has made a significant impact on you? Why do they resonate with you?
I feel very fortunate at this stage of my career to feel a part of a community of industry dynamos that I might have only imagined knowing earlier in my life, let alone being able to call them colleagues and often friends. I derive a lot of support an inspiration from them, including many fellow CMOs. However, this question always leads me to one person who was not in any way corporate: my mother. Both of my parents were extremely influential to me. However, my dad passed away suddenly when I was in college, and I watched my mom transform from being a wife, a mother and a part-time speech pathologist, to a powerful force. The greatest lesson I derived from my mother is the importance of being unapologetically authentic. I realize that with age and experience, I have become more confident in being real, being open and vulnerable, and what I have also come to understand is how much that can engender real trust.
Can you share your favorite encouraging quote? How does this resonate with you right now?
My favorite quote — which feels more than relevant to the times in which are living now is this: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” — Nelson Mandela
From your perspective, how is Lowe’s helping see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel” in this time?
As the world continues to navigate COVID-19 and adjust to social and physical distancing, home has taken on a new meaning for all of us — living rooms have become schools, kitchens have become offices — the physical and emotional importance of home has never been more profound. As a business whose fundamental purpose is to help people improve their homes, the role we play now is really essential. If you think in terms of a hierarchy of needs, we want to first provide the products and services that will keep our homes safe and running smoothly. Beyond that, we want to help people make their homes the best places they can possible be, especially right now.
We also feel a greater responsibility toward our own associates who have been on the frontlines of delivering on those needs, and to our communities. Lowe’s has continued to rapidly create new policies, operations and safeguards to protect and thank our associates, customers and communities — ranging from a $2/hour wage increase for all hourly associates to enhanced safety measures across stores, including new technology to monitor foot traffic and limit customer entrance, social distancing ambassadors, adjusted store hours and more.
From your experience, what are ways each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us?
I think we’re reaching a phase where people are looking to grow relationships and connect meaningfully during this difficult time. Lowe’s takes great pride in being a business that empowers the spirit of do-it-yourself, but as we navigate this pandemic, there has never been a more important time for us to do-it-together.
Just a couple weeks ago, we started to see customers creating signs using materials around their homes to share messages of hope and gratitude for the many heroes of this pandemic. We recognized that we could help put a spotlight on their efforts by inviting more people to join using #BuildThanks and share our DIY knowledge to inspire others to come together for a moment of collective thanks. What transpired was a phenomenon of togetherness so powerful that we dedicated a new TV spot to showcasing these collective efforts of gratitude.
How will this movement bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people right now?
Thousands of ‘thank you’ signs and words of encouragement have been displayed outside of homes to offer our sincerest appreciation as these heroes go off to work. It’s been amazing to witness because we are all looking to channel our energies constructively, express real gratitude, and feel solidarity and connection with our neighbors from whom we have become at least quite physically isolated.
Families across the country are DIYing ‘thank yous’ for the doctors and delivery drivers in their communities. Kristen Bell participated with her kids along with Kevin Love, Drew Brees, HGTV talent and DIY influencers — all wanted to join in and support. Nurses are thanking other first responders. We want to thank our Lowe’s store associates — and yes many of them have taken the time in turn to thank the heroes in their communities.
What is the best way our readers can follow Lowe’s initiatives online?
We are continuously sharing updates of our associates’ actions in the community as well as the company’s response to the ongoing changes of COVID-19 on our newsroom. We also encourage you to share your ‘Thank You’ messages on social media using the hashtag #BuildThanks. You can look for ideas and inspiration at Lowes.com/BuildThanks.