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Beth Comstock

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Title: Senior VP-CMO
Company: General Electric Co.
Years in current job: 2
Quote: “One of our biggest challenges, and one that we will continue to face this year, is ensuring we have the strongest, best marketing talent in places with the biggest growth potential, namely the emerging markets.”

Beth Comstock, CMO of General Electric Co., is committed to raising the bar for marketing excellence across the organization.

“As marketing at GE has shifted from a support function to an engine for growth, we need to ensure our marketers have the talent and expertise needed to be effective strategic partners for our businesses,” Comstock said.

After being named CEO in 2001, Jeff Immelt issued a mandate that marketing should be a vital operating function across the company and an engine for organic growth. To help achieve this, Comstock this year oversaw the launch of GE's Gold Standard Marketing program, which defines marketing best practices and provides training for GE's roughly 5,000 marketers worldwide.

Out of this program grew a new approach to marketing—focusing on principles (a common language and standards); people (getting the right leaders in place); and processes (specific measures for grading performance).

“We're measuring it based on the number of employees engaging in the program and taking online assessment tools, and we're weaving the program into all our people-management processes,” Comstock said.

One of the tools GE has implemented to support the Gold Standard program is MarkNet, a private online community that GE marketers use to collaborate and share ideas across the company's businesses such as energy, finance and health care. So far, almost 4,000 of GE's marketers have joined MarkNet, and one division was able to save about $250,000 on the cost of a customer segmentation study after a colleague from GE Capital saw the posting and offered to have its analytics team handle the project.

Another priority for Comstock this year was the continuation of marketing efforts for “ecomagination,” GE's environmental platform, and “healthymagination,” its health care initiative. The advertising for both programs is handled by BBDO New York.

“We're just wrapping up the "ecomagination challenge,' which offers $200 million in potential funding for ideas relating to the power grid. We generated more than 3,000 ideas from 85 countries. This will be a way to work for us going forward,” Comstock said, referring to the use of digital technologies to collaborate with customers and partners.

Also this year, Comstock oversaw integrated marketing campaigns for “healthymagination,” which debuted last year. GE said it would invest $6 billion in health care technologies, particularly in emerging markets such as India and China.

GE ran a global ad campaign for “healthymagination” during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. “We wanted to tell a story about how GE helps doctors and hospitals provide better quality health care to more people at lower costs,” Comstock said.

“Throughout these, and all of our initiatives this year, we have placed heavy priority on developing better, more engaging content that tells our stories in a simpler, more relatable way; and we leveraged many communication channels to do so—from TV advertising to digital apps and data visualization [a story-telling tool].”

—K.M.

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