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GE's 'business-to-human' marketing

News, 02 August 2016

CHICAGO: General Electric, the industrial conglomerate, believes the digital revolution is causing "business-to-human" marketing to gain greater prominence over traditional notions of business-to-business communications.

Linda Boff, the company's VP/CMO, discussed this subject at the 2016 Masters of B2B Marketing Conference held by the Business Marketing Association (BMA), a division of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

More specifically, she reported that a "business-to-human" model – itself based primarily around a "people-to-people approach" – is an essential driver of GE's current approach.

"Our customers and business leaders don't log on to a different internet at night … When you think about that, the stakes for all of us have changed," she said. (For more, including additional details of the company's strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: How GE breaks through the image of its past.)

As further evidence, she suggested that business-to-business (B2B) customers are now measuring the companies they buy from, no matter what the sector, against the best consumer-facing experiences.

"Great experiences – whether they be on Amazon or Uber – are setting a different bar for us as B2B marketers, and we have to think about this in very, very different terms," said Boff.

To take one example of how this philosophy translates into marketing practice at GE, the firm aims to make sure it does not look or sound like a stereotypical giant corporation on properties like Facebook and Twitter.

"You want to show up on social media and in digital media the way a person would, not the way a corporation would," Boff said.

"On my team, and at our agencies, 'corporate' is almost a dirty word. We don't want to come across as 'corporate' in our tone. We want to be contemporary. We want to be relevant. And we want to be first."

And just as GE was first to market with MRIs, jet engines and various other big-ticket items, this desire to be an early adopter of new marketing platforms – from Vine and Instagram to Yik Yak – reflects its innovation credentials.

Because "your marketing has to connect with your business and your business purpose," Boff continued, "we want to reflect [the firsts] in our marketing."

Data sourced from Warc