Dow Chemical plans corporate overhaul

13 July 2011

NEW YORK: Dow Chemical, the business-to-business group, is undertaking corporate transformation and rebranding programmes in response to evolving global trends.

Even though the company is 114 years old, logs $55bn in sales per year and manufactures thousands of different lines, from packaged food ingredients to constituents for shampoo and paint, popular awareness levels are often modest.

"We make products that touch every one of us ... multiple times every day, but people don't really think of it because we don't really sell a lot directly to the consumer," Ruby Chandy, Dow's CMO, told Forbes.

"We have a few products that go directly to the consumer, but 95% of our products go in as ingredients into other people's products."

Chandy suggested that for the vast majority of its history to date, Dow pursued a model based on high unit sales and minimal outgoings.

However, it is currently in the midst of adapting this approach, responding to issues like the emergence of rivals around the world, new technologies and rapidly-changing consumer preferences.

"Where Dow is really focused now is on building itself into a ... much more speciality-orientated solutions company," Chandy said.

"What that means for marketing, and what that means for the company is general, is rather than a strategy of large volumes and big assets, it's much more about understanding the customer."

"We're working hard to get the whole company - and particularly the marketers, our sellers, our R&D organisation, the front-end commercial side - to be externally focused."

This involves spending a lot of time with clients, gaining insights into their categories and the problems which need solving, then adding value and tailoring its portfolio accordingly.

"We have a very large effort going on branding, because ... we're trying to transform the company and transform how our customers think about us," Chandy said.

"So we have a major effort going on internally now to build a new branding framework which we hope to launch toward the end of this year and into next year."

"Our messaging ... really will be about positioning us in this new light as a transformed company, one that is focused on bringing solutions to our customer and being a close, close partner to our customer."

In the meantime, Dow is leveraging platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to gather information and input, foster communities discussing topics like energy or construction, and spread news.

"It's new for us as for many B2B companies, but it is a very big priority for us, because we see all the common social media ... as ways to have very close collaboration with the customer."

Having long focused on sustainability - from energy use and streamlined manufacturing processes to personal and product safety - Dow also believes it is well-placed to exploit growing demand in this area.

"This practice of sustainability is inherent in our DNA and in how we work as a company," Chandy said.

"Now we're able to not only have our own internal practices ... but we're able to bring more products that help others accomplish it [to market]."

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff