How Hornbach’s playful take on DIY made tools cool again

German store Hornbach has established itself as the cathedral of DIY, with years of tongue-in-cheek advertising that’s appealed to home improvers’ sense of humour. We delve into why it works so well, and what it can teach advertisers about the current mania for purpose

There’s certain sectors that every ad agency dreams of working with, and it’s fair to say that DIY probably isn’t top of this list. You only have to think about the UK’s dreary collection of B&Q and Wickes adverts to understand that tools and home improvement aren’t firing people’s imaginations. But in Germany, creative agency Heimat and DIY store Hornbach have a different take on things.

Their 20-year relationship has produced some truly entertaining work, not least 2019’s ad, which revelled in imagery of hairy, sweaty men at work in the garden. Together the pair have celebrated male baldness (dubbing it a ‘crown of glory’), made hammers out of tanks, and explored men’s close relationship with their tools. It’s all delightfully silly, but also impressively engaging for a brand that’s selling products as mundane as saws and screwdrivers. Speaking to Heimat founder Guido Heffels however, reveals that there’s a surprisingly heartfelt message driving Hornbach’s advertising.

“We see the DIY world according to Hornbach as close to the original DIY culture of England in the 70s and 80s, when people started to come up with their own lifestyle, and their alternative vision of how life should be – ‘I don’t need the state anymore, I want to live life according to my beliefs’ – and I think the DIY ethics of Hornbach are very close to that,” he says.