Julie Fasone Holder, Senior VP, Chief Marketing, Sales and Reputation Officer
The Dow Chemical Company

Dow Human ElementFasone Holder was here, primarily to introduce the Human Elements Campaign recently launched by DOW. This is an ad creative guy’s wet dream. A concept so clear and compelling, so extendable and logical, yet emotional that it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before. Check out the Human Element TV commercial

It’s pure emotion. It doesn’t even show the product. (Agency creative department, be jealous). So where did this gem come from? A vision that is very classically corporate:

To be the largest, most profitable and most respected chemical company in the world.”

So where is the sustainability in there? By way of an answer, Fasone Holder pointed to the element of Respect. One of the subsequent slides that talked about sustainability had this line:

Setting the standard: (Sustainability is) An enabler for supporting long-term value creation and economic performance… Enabler? Value Creation? Sorry, dear readers, I faded after that.

One obvious question to ask, is how does Dow deal with their toxic past? Their answer to this is the element of Legacy. A transparent approach to the past that presumably lets people understand Dow is moving beyond their past while acknowledging its impacts. I visited their web site to see how this was dealt with in reality. A few layers down, a section called ‘Issues & Challenges’ has some promise. Right away they offer links to hot-button issues such as Bhopal and Dioxins. I followed the dioxin link, and found this:
“Dow has undertaken considerable efforts to reduce dioxin emissions and actively promotes improvements and solutions across industry.  Dow believes any action toward resolving dioxin-related issues should be based on science.  We seek science-based solutions that protect human health and the environment, while also contributing to the well-being of the local community.  Dow supports corrective action that is specific to a particular site and decisions based on the realistic probability for exposure.”

‘Science-based’ ‘Realistic probability’  To me these terms set up an academic discussion designed more to mitigate risk and allow a corporation to do the absolute minimum as they define it. But perhaps I’m just the suspicious hippie type.

The results of the Human Element campaign are dramatic in terms of consumer perception. In all cases where consumers had seen the campaign, their positive perception of Dow had increased markedly, and their PR department has been swamped with requests for the TV commercial (largely from chemistry teachers who no doubt see a ray of positive light shone upon their field)

Call me cynical, but my take was that this initiative doesn’t go far enough to address the core issues Dow facees at the fundamental level. Then again, is there an ad campaign that could?

Click here to check out The Real Human Element – Dow Chemical’s Nightmare, one filmmaker’s response to the campaign.

One in a series of articles on Lorne’s Sustainable Journey to the Sustainable Brands 08 Conference in Monterey CA. Click here for the full list of sessions, or here for the ‘Fear & Loathing’ road trip journals.

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