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GE exec: Diversified strategy key to engagement across multiplying platforms

NEW YORK ? A General Electric executive at Forrester Research?s Forum for Marketing Leaders said the conglomerate aims to stand out in the crowd by communicating with the consumer as if the company were a person, supporting its outreach by providing emotional content and leveraging various channels? diverse features and strengths.

The company, with revenue of $149 billion, thinks small to connect with increasingly device-agnostic consumers, in line with the increasing personalization of marketing due to the mobile mind shift, the executive said in a session, ?Unexpected Moments: How GE?s Digital Strategy Builds a Brand.?

?For us, [the goal] is to show up in as many of the right places as possible but do it with content that is going to touch people in those platforms in the way that works there,? said Linda Boff, executive director of global brand marketing for GE, Fairfield, CT.

?What we have put on Vine is remarkably different from a film we have shown on television, is remarkably different than the content we have on Instagram,? she said. ?Each [approach] looks at a different kind of emotion.?

Familiar name
Among brands, and as a key player in hundreds of different markets, GE, a 123-year-old conglomerate started by inventor Thomas Edison, is a familiar name. Yet its products and services remain invisible to end users.

Leveraging dozens of channels and contexts, it strives to build a coherent brand message out of hundreds of thousands of discrete impressions.

GE's Linda Boff at Forrester forum.

GE is seeing results by betting on mobile social platforms such as Instagram and Vine to build a relationship with consumers and tell the company?s story.

The company?s first Vine was a simple video that showed a science experiment with a saucer of milk, food coloring and a Q-tip. Then GE began running Vine campaigns asking users to submit Vines. The company compiled all of the vines in one video, which yielded more than 700,000 views as well as 40 articles written about the campaign.

The initiative, dubbed the six-second science fair, cost the company just $5.

?Some of them actually baked GE into their experiment,? Ms. Boff said of the participants.

In addition to tapping mobile platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Vine, GE is marketing itself through its application of virtual reality technology.

In November, GE used a headset developed by the virtual reality company Oculus Rift to design an immersive 3D virtual reality tour of the company?s new research center in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

The Oculus Rift headset looks like a pair of ski goggles with a thick lens. Users who donned the headset experienced what it would be like to be in the pilot?s seat of a virtual Nautilus 1 submersible vessel. The submarine took them more then a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, above much-coveted oil deposits.

High-growth businesses
The Oculus Rift experience was a way for GE to take viewers into territory they would not normally visit. Traveling a mile down to the ocean floor, the experience highlighted the extreme environment that subsea technology must withstand, and shaped a vision for how a subsea factory will work in the future.

Leveraging Tumblr in Six Second Science.

?For us, it?s not how we put that big [GE] monogram on it,? Ms. Boff said. ?It?s more how do we stand for science, technology and invention and remind people of that?

?Our challenge isn?t to get people to know GE. It?s not familiarity,? she said. 

?It?s who are we today and who are we becoming and reminding people that we are in high-growth businesses.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York