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BMA-NY: Reimagining marketing at GE

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New York—When Steve Liguori came to General Electric Co. in 2006 as executive director-global marketing, he encountered an all-too-common in-house perception of the marketing department. "Together with [CMO] Beth Comstock, we wanted to create a world-class marketing department, yet the perception was that marketing was just that group that produces brochures," said Liguori, the featured speaker at the Business Marketing Association of New York City's Distinguished Lecturer Series today. The challenges in "reimagining marketing at GE," according to Liguori, involved working within a technology company little used to marketing input, and one that was moreover intensely siloed by products—jet engines, healthcare technology, oil and gas, and financial services, to name just a few. "The marketing people in each siloed division were not talking to each other," Liguori said, "but their struggles were all the same." Liguori detailed GE's new Gold Standard Equation, which defined marketing best practices and launched training for GE's roughly 5,000 marketers and 120 CMOs worldwide. [The approach was profiled in the October 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review.] As part of the initiatives, marketing worked to define the company's go-to-market principles that include market knowledge, segmentation and pricing, in addition to standardizing the tactics of sales force enablement, branding and GE's approach to such emerging channels as social and digital marketing. Marketing also is working to inform for the first time technological advancement at GE, Liguori said—a stiff task at a company filled with "proud engineers." Yet, bridging the gap between "technological innovation" and "commercial innovation" is essential, he said. Helping is the company's new "Imagination Breakthroughs" Intranet, where marketers can meet digitally and brainstorm together. "The silos still exist at GE, but now we're collaborating based on need, not technology," Liguori said.
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