The Real Human Element

March 15, 2008

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

The relationship that sparks Dow Chemical’s highly successful Human Element global reputation campaign is the rapport between Dow’s CEO Andrew Liveris and Dow’s vice president of global communications and reputation Patti Temple Rocks.

Liveris is the visionary who sought to differentiate Dow from DuPont, BASF Corp. and other competitors, while Temple Rocks brought the marketing communications alchemy--that unique combination of marketing science, communications art and interpersonal persuasion--to deliver the landmark corporate identity campaign that has been transforming Dow since its launch in June 2006.

The story of Temple Rocks’ journey to C-level executive at Dow is equally instructive. She’s done two stints at Golin Harris and at Dow, and ran her own agency for nearly 10 years. Where others might have burned bridges, Temple Rocks former employers are glowing.

“I always enjoyed going to client meetings with Patti. She made me look good,” quips Al Golin, chairman and founder of Golin Harris. “Patti is a rare combination of creativity and sound strategic business thinking,” adds Golin. His only regret is that Dow’s Liveris “made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.”

Liveris made that offer while Temple Rocks was working for Golin Harris, spearheading an integrated communications team from Interpublic Group blending Foote, Cone & Belding and Golin Harris in an aggressive attempt to win a competitive bid for Dow’s business.

In the brief to the agency, Dow outlined the company’s 2015 sustainability goals. They described Dow’s desire to engage in the challenges of global energy supply, climate change, affordable and adequate food supply, decent housing, sustainable water supplies and improved personal health and safety.

“Andrew recognized Dow needed to be much more aggressive in trying to be part of the global dialogue,” says Temple Rocks. “We sat around and debated a lot of different strategies. It became clear to us, if you're in the chemical industry, there is a higher degree of expectation of social responsibility,” she says.

“This was one of those times when you go, ‘Wow, the client just gave us something remarkable.’ From Dow’s aspirations to solve compelling human problems, we landed on the Human Element campaign,” she says.

The campaign features real people from four continents, rather than actors, and relies on powerful environmental and human imagery to make its point and position Dow.

“I believe in the importance of the personal passion and commitment of the CEO,” says Temple Rocks. “I don't think you can do transformational communications and branding work without it.” She credits the combination of freedom and engagement from her CEO for the success of the campaign. In the world of corporate reputation and corporate branding campaign, Temple Rocks says great work has to be connected to great leadership. She says Liveris set the direction and the tone for the campaign. He doesn’t micro-manage. He trusts Temple Rocks. And trusting her probably had a lot to do with why he directly recruited her to come work for Dow.

“In the midst of developing The Human Element campaign for the agency, I was approached by Dow,” says Temple Rocks. She tabled the discussion until the competition for the account was resolved. She wondered whether she could accept the job and implement a competing agency’s vision. In the end, though, that was a non-issue because Interpublic Group won the business and Temple Rocks made the move to Midland, Mich., Dow’s headquarters, for the second time in her career. The first was in 1981. Growing up in suburban Chicago, she had hoped to join a Chicago agency after college graduation. “My dream job was to work on the McDonalds account at Golin Harris,” says Temple Rocks. “[But] in 1981 those jobs were hard to come by. The training program at Dow was terrific and paid more than the agency,” she adds.

Being single in Midland, though, came to be a challenge. “My single person side wanted to get back to Chicago,” says Temple Rocks. “I moved back to Chicago and went to work for Golin Harris on the Ronald McDonald House program.”

Marriage and family led Temple Rocks to open her own agency in Cleveland.

“My agency wasn’t very big. After 10 years, Golin bought me out. I came back to Chicago and ran Golin’s consumer group. That’s when the phone rang. Someone I knew at Dow said, ‘Are you interested in pitching our business?’” The Human Element campaign followed, along with her return to Dow in the C-level role in May 2006.

Speaking from her experience, Temple Rocks has advice for young marketers. Don’t worry so much about your career path. It will all work out.

“So many people are focused on their next job. Focus on the current job. Be really good at what you do. Don't worry about other people. Everyone is so competitive. That's such a waste of time,” she says.

Is she still enthusiastic about Dow nearly two years after the launch of the Human Element campaign? You bet.

“I try to find the right balance with my peers, the people that work for me, as well as the C-suite. I’m respectful of the Dow culture and I’m always challenging and trying to find new ways to do things. I think that won the respect of our CEO.”

Temple Rocks avoids playing the critic or the revolutionary. “I say, ‘This is really good, but there are things we can do differently.’ I try to suggest different approaches.” That’s the right way to achieve great work.

Michael Krauss is president of Market Strategy Group, based in Chicago, and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Mkt-strat.com or news@ama.org.

 

 

 ©2008 Marion Consulting Partners