Company: Dow Chemical Co.
Years in current job: 3
Quote: “We were better able to weather some very difficult times because of the "Human Element' campaign. Without equivocation, I credit it to the investment we've been making since 2006.”
Although it's been scaled back somewhat, Dow Chemical Co.'s “Human Element” branding campaign is alive and well in spite of a challenging acquisition by the company that compounded other difficulties posed by the slumping economy.
“If this [combination of forces] happened to Dow five or six years ago, we probably would have resorted to our old behavior and killed our branding initiative,” said Patti Temple Rocks, VP-global public affairs, brand and reputation. “We did pull back the investment a little bit, but we maintained a presence during the roughest waters we've ever sailed as a company—and I consider this among our greatest accomplishments this year.”
Rocks said Dow's “Human Element” branding campaign, introduced in 2006, had established a strong track record in its first 2½ years. “A critical part of any external campaign is reminding your internal stakeholders that it's working,” she said. “I think we did a very effective job, and that's what it took to get [management] to continue to make the investment.”
After the Kuwaiti government canceled a planned joint venture with Dow in December 2008, the company delayed its $15 billion purchase of Rohm & Haas, which originally had been scheduled for January 2009. In response, Rohm & Haas, a maker of specialty materials, filed suit against Dow. The acquisition, completed April 1, resolved the dispute.
“We actually used the "Human Element' campaign to talk to our new colleagues in ways we hope are meaningful to them about Dow Chemical Co.,” Rocks said.
Dow has been using a proprietary third-party measurement tool to assess the “Human Element” program. The tool “measure[s] awareness, familiarity and all the traditional things, as well as some specific things for Dow,” Rocks said. The impact of the campaign on employees, investors and financial analysts is also gauged.
After increasing in 2007 and 2008, the first full years of the “Human Element” rollout, the score “held steady in 2009, and I view that as a significant achievement,” Rocks said.
Another key accomplishment for Rocks was a restructuring of the company's worldwide marketing communications operations. Widely dispersed among operating units, geographic regions and certain key executives, the marketing communications function had become unwieldy and inefficient, with significant duplication of effort and messaging that was neither consistent nor focused.
“We consolidated into an account team concept that is like an agency organization,” said Rocks, who was exec VP of PR firm GolinHarris for seven years before joining Dow in May 2006.
Although Dow downsized due to the economy and the merger with Rohm & Haas, Rocks said the marcom restructuring was a strategic move rather than a cost-cutting move. “We started the design and strategic thinking of it in the first quarter of 2008,” she said. “The organizational design we worked on then—before we knew where the economy was headed—was right where we ended up.”
On average, Dow trimmed its head count by 10% to 11%, but Rocks' department was reduced by about 25%.
“I think it's going well,” Rocks said of the reorganization. “We're saving the company money and time, and we're forcing prioritization of the work.”