Over the past year, GE has remained committed to extraordinary transformation, shifting from a diversified conglomerate with a large percentage of profits derived from financial services to a more focused company, able to concentrate on defining itself for a new age by becoming a “digital industrial company.”
This focus is evident: Earlier this year, GE strengthened its alliance with AT&T and received extensive press coverage over its USD $26.5 billion sale of real estate assets in April 2015. In late June 2015, the company entered an agreement to sell a large portion of its fleet-financing business to Element Financial Corporation for USD $6.9 billion and, in August, sold its U.S. Sponsor Finance business and bank loan portfolio for USD $11 billion. In a deal that marks the largest acquisition in its history, GE also gained regulatory approval to acquire Alstom’s power business. Once final, the deal will extend GE’s global leadership in electrical utilities with generating equipment and power-grid distribution systems.
While the company’s portfolio continues to evolve, so has GE’s ambition to ensure a top position in the market. As it transforms into a digital industrial company, it’s announced key leadership changes. In May 2015, Kate Johnson, GE’s Chief Commercial Officer, took on an additional role as CEO of GE’s Intelligent Platforms division. In September 2015, Beth Comstock, the leader of GE Business Innovations, was named Vice Chair—the first woman in GE’s history to hold such a position—and Linda Boff was named CMO.
To match its ambitions, GE’s marketing efforts have focused on new storytelling platforms. With some 35–40 percent of its marketing budget allocated to digital media, the company is tapping into platforms like Wattpad, Vine, Instagram, and Snapchat to spark conversations with audiences and solve real business problems, both by curating new ideas and pushing industry-leading content. For example, GE invites Instagram influencers to tour the GE facilities, encouraging them to share this rare look behind the scenes using the hashtag #GEInstaWalk. GE has also introduced distinctly imaginative content that marketing executives hope will paint the brand as “human, quirky, and a little bit unexpected.” A brilliant example is the deliberately over-the-top infomercial parody that promotes GE Link light bulbs, featuring American Actor Jeff Goldblum.
GE is also working to maintain transparency as it transforms. Just recently, it rolled out a series of commercials with the tagline “The Digital Company. That’s Also an Industrial Company.” The commercials have served to remind key GE stakeholders—especially millennial job seekers—that hiring software engineers is now a top priority.
The 123-year-old brand is redefining what it means to be an industrial company—and what it means to be a part of GE—as it creates and shapes the next Industrial Age.