19 Responses to "The Human Element. If nothing is more fundamental, then WHY isn’t this part of Dow’s recruitment message"
  1. Great post, Shannon.

    It may not be as glamorous, but doesn’t Wal*Mart blur the lines between corporate imaging, store advertising and employment branding? I can think of a number of examples where the “human element” is nicely blended into a well rounded marketing message. I agree these themes need to migrate over the employment web site but surely it is better to have employer branding indistinguishable from monolithic or endorsed branding. Shouldn’t all corporate messaging talk to the “human element” and recruitment communication, you know, by default? Maybe not.

    Amitai

  2. Jason Warner says:

    Shannon,

    I suspect that the career site at Dow is ‘in progress’. I think the strongest marketing impressions are not overt, which is why I think the creative works. Employment marketing at its finest takes the essence of an organization’s value proposition (culture/soul/philosophy/niche/etc) and transparently extends it’s reach to a target market.

    While I agree with you that the video clip is remarkable, I can’t help but wonder ‘is it real?’. If I were to call people at Dow, would they translate their personal value propositions for working there into the same language. Are these the real values of the company? It doesn’t take long to find quotes such as “The Dow corporate culture is very passive, aggressive and subversive.” when doing a little digging on the Vault or elsewhere.

    This dialogue reminds me of the Home Depot ads where they featured their employees and in what Olympic events they participated. Great employment advertising (not overt) but the problem is that they are disingenious when one digs beyond the surface and begins to understand how Nardelli has approached leadership and the affect it’s had on morale and retention.

    Spin doesn’t work in this now transparent world, and an organization’s value proposition had better be real. Going back to the Dow video… nice production… but I find it unconvincing and leaving me skeptical…

  3. Jason, your points are very well articulated. Let me ask you this: where can you find any number/community of people/employees who do not have a percentage among them who would present an aspect of the organization that is inconsistent with the imaging and employer branding. You say “disingenuous” without allowing for the possibility of it really being “paradoxical.” Every organization, by nature of its human element, is going to be more complex in it’s manifestation of reality than a contrived marketing message or branding campaign, no?

    You say: “Spin doesn’t work in this now transparent world.” I think you’re wrong. Looking through your critical and analytical lens the spin is obvious but to the “consumer” – the target – the message conveys the essence that is desired by the marketer. I know. I have consumed this ad, it seems to me, in much the way Shannon has. Shannon has simply taken the marketer to task on stoppong where he or she did.

  4. Jason Warner says:

    Ami makes some great points. I think the issue here is that in my mind the Dow ad contains gross spin… that is to say the spin is beyond what I think most consumers (candidates) would find plausible.

    I do agree that Shannon’s original intent was to say, “Hey, you didn’t finish the job and your website needs work…”

    You are right about there always being a group of detractors… http://www.ihatestarbucks.com and wwww.iww.org are a coupe of easy examples related to my world. All of that said, I would suggest (and I have for the last 5 years of my career with Starbucks) that if one were to go into a Starbucks (your choice) and talk with any of the employees (we call them partners), you’ll find them relating a value system and culture that mirrors what we sell in our marketing messages. There’s no spin. Yes, a small percentage of the time you might find a disgruntled person, but by and large our employment marketing (and all the innumerable marketing impressions that are created in every interaction that candidates have with us on any level) rings true because it is true. I believe our transparent world brings that out.

    I also believe the following:
    – consumers (and candidates) are more sophisticated now then ever before.
    – consumers (and candidates) are more skeptical now then ever before.
    – with more jobs than people, candidates can afford to be more selective than ever before.
    – information and data are far more accessible which creates transparency between organizations and people (prospects or candidates). This tranparency goes both ways.
    – Candidates find the most credible source of information about life at another company from the employees that work there (this is supported by research, such as that done recently by the Recruiting Roundtable).

    Given all this, organizations will be well served to follow the following steps:
    1.) self-identify their value proposition (or hire an objective third-party consultant to help them take the blinders off)
    2.) map this value proposition to the appropriate target market,
    3.) evaluate if the target market is sufficient to meet their talent demands
    4.) if the target market isn’t sufficient, they need to reevaluate their value proposition (one can’t run a company without talent) or
    5.) if the target market is suffient, market the value proposition accordingly and authentically.

    So back to the Dow ad, I’m just not convinced that it’s authentic. It’s neat, in the way a Nike ad captures my attention, and entertains, but I don’t think it’s representative of life at the company. For Dow’s target market (and I’m not it), they might be better served by keeping it real.

    Jason Warner

  5. Shannon says:

    Thanks for the comments Ami & Jason!

    Ami – As for Wal-Mart, I just put up a post that discusses some of what they are doing online with their blog and I will discuss them further in a later post…but they are a good example as you say. Given all of the issues that Wal-Mart has with their people and providing adequate access to healthcare, I tend to view their attempts at blending in Human messages with cynicism.

    Jason – While I have to believe that consumers and candidates can be swayed by the story that gets told (otherwise I would be out of business); you are dead-on that the story needs to be as real and transparent as possible. When I decided to write this post, I did a little research and found the quote by the DOW VP of Global Communications and Reputation that said about the campaign:

    This is more than an ad campaign to our company. It is a statement to the world and, more importantly, to ourselves about the future direction of our business.

    I was more questioning, if that is all true, and this campaign truly represents her expressed sentiment, then WHY isn’t it being extended to the employment brand? If this is the direction that they want to take their company, then why aren’t incorporating and living this message internally and externally?

    I also took a look at posts that looked at this ad from the corporate branding perspective. I came across a series of posts here and here on a site called Leading Questions. Apparently, the blog author loved the ad as much as I did – but the commenters felt more cynical about the ad. I tend to agree with how the author responded to the cynicism:

    Cynicism is a trap that is ultimately self-defeating. I know I used to be there. Sure there are reasons to be cynical, however, I choose not accept them as the basis for my judgment of people and their claims. Too often cyncism is what public figures want. It removes them from responsibility. They can blame the public for not trusting them, for being cynical, and turning their back on them. It is a viscious circle.

    Yet, I’ve found that it is important to take people’s words seriously. It is the only way we can then challenge them to live up to the ideals expressed in their public statements. Cynicism provides no basis for holding others accountable for their statements. It relieves them of responsibility.

    The only way a campaign like Dow’s can have the impact that it should is for people to actually take it seriously. Based on my own experience, Dow’s campaign is right on the money. The human element is the one that is emerging as the missing element in many endeavors. It isn’t that people haven’t been involved before, but that their role has been treated as just another mechanism.

  6. Shannon:

    “A company is defined by its people and their talent”.

    Yes, simple, and you would more would get it for online recruitment campaigns.

    Yet, most companies today will attempt to re-use existing branding and image content that is used in collateral, tv ads, job postings, etc for the web.

    The reality is; most are not. Developing online web video or branding is work.

    Successful online web video for recruiting needs to incorporate the following to work:

    Rely on real people vs actors
    Produced for the small screen; not TV
    Made for short attention span of users
    Structured to encourage user interaction
    Focus on authentic content

    I think Dow and others have the framework, but need to invest the time to do it right.

    Here is an example of one done right:

    http://www.ubs.com/1/e/career_candidates/graduate/meet_our_people.html

    Great branding, real people.

    PJA

  7. Shannon,

    This all needs more digesting than a hurried comment can manage. However, my reference to Wal*Mart was simply as an example of how their corporate/store marketing cleverly incorporated a recruitment message: “I’ve been with Wal*Mart for some many years and look at me now” campaign, remember? It is easy to view these things with cynicism – like the wheelchair greeter and docile service dog – properly attired – but the purpose in this messaging – for immediate consumption by a targeted audience – will never withstand the likes of us pulling back the veil back to be dumbstruck by the horrors of naked corporate ugliness. It is what is unless it’s advertising. Then, it is what we advertise.

    Amitai

  8. jinfinite8 says:

    I would count myself as both a cynic and an eternal optimist. Having said that, I agree with Jason that the chances of Dow actually being as people centric as these commercials portray is unlikely. But I want to believe. My reaction to this commercial was to be inspired.

    Of course, just because we have transparency in marketing today as a new core value (and we’re huge believers in it) that doesn’t mean we throw out aspirational marketing that defines what we want our product or service to be. Both are powerful motivators for real change. The Dow spots connected with Shannon and I, for Jason it was too overt and kicked in his B.S. detector. To both Jason and Ami’s points, there are employees in Dow that would rally around this new aspirational message and use it to change their business (such as the Patti Temple example in the post) while others will relate to being treated unfairly by their manager or peer and resent the company even more for their misrepresentation and lack of transparency.

    I’m still left pondering the same thing that Shannon did – why not incorporate this in your recruitment marketing message? It’s just so relevant. Jason may be right when he speculates that the tie-in between the two is in the works, I hope so, but if that’s the case it would be simple enough to acknowledge the consumer campaign on their careers home page so Dow’s messaging is connected. It could be as simple as an added text link on their careers page “The Human Element – nothing is more elemental – come join in.” or more engrossing like an embedded video of the commercial with a call to action like “The Human Element – why Dow needs you – apply today.”

  9. Jason Warner says:

    Great discussion.

    I think there’s a clear demarcation between consumer branding, where inspiration and aspirational whimsy (I say that with less cynicism then it sounds) may convince me to spend more money on a product then I should, a la my Nike ad example and the ‘buying’ decision a candidate may make when choosing an employer.

    When I buy $120 running shoes, I know and accept that they won’t really make me faster or last any longer than $50 shoes, but the marginal cost is outweighed by the perceived marginal benefit and brand cache. That’s part of the ‘fun’ of buying well-branded consumer products…we want to believe. There’s some very interesting discoveries being made in neuroscience (google Neuromarketing for examples) that is opening some doors here.

    I think it’s far different when one considers the marriage between an employer and employee. I agree with Julian and I want to believe the Dow ad. However, I also know that the realities of life in a job are what will make people stay, because the ‘buying’ decisions of candidates/employees ARE MADE EVERY DAY THEY COME TO WORK. These reinvestments are made based on the ‘puts and takes’ against the employment value proposition that are made on a daily basis in one’s career.

    I’d love to see real world, authentic examples of tactics and behaviors inside of Dow that support the assertions made in their well-funded, highly polished, entertaining marketing video. I really enjoyed Home Depot’s ads during the Olympics. I felt inspired all the way up to the point when I took my fingernail and scratched beneath the veneer and learned about Nardelli’s approach.

    I point to the Home Depot example not to say that Dow is in the same predicament, but to illustrate a point that marketing is great for selling shoes and consumers often pay more for the secret sauce that brand cache and clever marketing brings (examples everywhere, including Starbucks), but the employment proposition is far more complex, is far more impactful to people’s lives, and therefore marketing and value propositions should be scrutinized.

  10. Interesting points, Jules, Jason.

    Shannon, let me know when you want to revisit the “purple paper” concept. It seems to me this would be an invaluable topic of conversation and Jason would be a great panelist, no? Just a tangential thought, that’s all ;0)

  11. Jason Warner says:

    Two other comments (brain working overtime):

    One issue, which I will address in a post on my blog shortly is that I believe candidate marketing / employment marketing impressions are multiplicative. This also goes beyond traditional product marketing where impressions are generall additive. That is to say that job purchase decisions by candidates are formed and then strengthened or weakened by a variety of impressions that behave and combine with multiplicative properties. For example, one bad experience as a candidate or prospect can wipe out 20 positive employment brand impressions, due to the multiplicative nature of job related impressions.

    In product marketing, this often is less true (“I bought the shoes, and had a bad experience with them, but I still love the brand and would repurchase…”).

    This multiplicative interaction of marketing impressions on candidates is a big part of why I think the Dow ad doesn’t work: Yes, it’s impactful, but when one multiplies all the other impressions together (company history of ethics, feedback from workers, interactions in the interview process, general work experience once one is an employee, and indeed the job careers site, etc) the overall impression is negative. That’s why my I assert that the marketing has to be authentic or it’s wasted effort.

    Finally, is purple paper what purple squirrels use to submit resumes?

    Jason Warner

  12. jason,

    A purple paper is a white paper that isn’t. Stay tuned.

    To your comments, I am Wow!’d at your rationale and persuaded by your argument. I shall have to think about the implications of all that.

    Amitai

  13. Donna says:

    what is the music in this commercial? is it a classical piece or written just for this ad? how do I find out?

  14. Shannon says:

    Hi Donna. A terrific blogger, Ed Brenegar, over at his Leading Questions blog wrote a post about this here:

    Artist: Susan Voelz

    CD: 13 Ribs

    Label: Pravda

    Title: New Harmony Waltz

  15. Megan says:

    I must say, this is a great ad.

  16. jinfinite8 says:

    I just wanted to leave a note to a recent commenter and for our readers that I removed comments for (Carlos) from this post. Let it be known that Carlos doesn’t like this ad in any way. I did not delete these messages because they were negative. I have deleted the messages (2 possibly 5) because the notes were part of a series of messages that appeared to either be comment spam or troll like behavior – neither of which I will tolerate. I received a large number of messages which were all negative, all lacked any e-mail or contact info, all except the last two were under different names, and all came in quick succession. This behavior escalated after I deleted the first comment which, in my opinion, was highly out of context for this story and blog. Let’s just be clear that we have NO problems with people leaving negative comments here. I apologize to you if your intent was to just leave a message voicing your displeasure of the ad featured in this post. If on the other hand you’re on a mission to just rant against Dow for your own personal reasons – take it elsewhere. We have no affiliation with Dow from either a commercial or personal perspective, and we have no reason to defend them or their commercial. If you read other comments on this post you’ll see that the commercial really works for some people, while others it just seems manipulative.

  17. Allison says:

    This commercial, even if, to you, it’s just a scam or a way of making more money, touches me. It makes me really think of how true everything is. We are all connected with the connections around us, and our element makes a big difference. It’s hard to explain, but I know if you feel this commercial has reached out to you, you know how I feel.

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