ORLANDO, FL: Content marketing has become a vital tool for General Electric as the company aims to move beyond simply driving awareness and build familiarity regarding its diverse range of activities.

Jason Hill, the company's global director/media and content strategy at GE, discussed this topic while speaking at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2014 Masters of Marketing conference.

"On a global level, we were making a shift from awareness to familiarity," he said (For more, including details of the firm's three-pronged content strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: GE defines best practices for native advertising.)

Although the vast majority of US consumers are conversant with GE's activity to a greater or less extent, he continued, this situation was not always replicated in other nations.

"We were realising through brand tracking that awareness had sort of gone as far as it could go," Hill told the ANA audience. "People … generally knew the logo and generally were able to say what the company did.

"But really when asking people to boil it down to a business area, they were not able to articulate that we're in the healthcare space, that we're in the renewables space, and so on and so forth."

Content marketing provided the opportunity to inform consumers about these subjects in a completely different way than traditional advertising, and allows for deeper forms of engagement.

"We really believe that content marketing is a way to humanise a brand. We had also learned from research that the more people know us, the more they like us," said Hill.

"So we made a decision as a marketing team that our north star, our key attribute for the brand, was going to be about improving familiarity, and – again – we realised that had to be done in ways different than advertising."

GE, of course, has not abandoned television or other legacy channels, but has been using various initiatives from online video to a native advertising tie-up on The Economist's website to spread the word in new ways.

"Advertising alone wasn't going to be able to tell some of these complex economic, political, policy-driven stories that our products and our verticals are necessarily connected with," said Hill.

Data sourced from Warc