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BtoB's Best Marketers: Beth Comstock, General Electric, Co.

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On Twitter, General Electric Co. Senior VP-CMO Beth Comstock describes herself as “aspiring innovator.” The label fits. The innovation that launched GE's “ecomagination” environmental business platform and its “healthymagination” healthcare initiative, continues unabated. Last month, GE rolled out a multimedia effort around healthymagination similar to the ecomagination Challenge, a contest that generated 5,000 ideas on how to improve the power grid. Over the last few months, it also ran the GE-OMD Incubator with media agency OMD, in which entrepreneurs were invited to a summer program and tasked with coming up with digital media and marketing ideas. “We're always looking for innovation,” Comstock said. As the executive who steers GE's global growth, overseeing its sales, marketing and communications, Comstock aims to expand the company's business in markets such as Brazil and India. Global expansion is credited with helping fuel GE's growth. In July, the company reported second-quarter net earnings of $3.76 billion, up 21% from the same quarter last year. GE is also focusing on developing apps to help its employees and customers. These include fitness and health apps and business apps, such as myEngines, which enables airlines to access critical jet engine data on laptops, smartphones and other devices. Air Canada recently signed an agreement with GE Aviation to use myEngines. “Imagine if your jet engine had a Facebook page,” Comstock said. Simplifying the data behind GE's technology is also key for Comstock, as is evident in initiatives such as the Webby-nominated “GE Show,” and its partnership with Visualizing.org, an online community whose mission is to make sense of complex issues through data and design. The design-driven approach permeates GE's websites and its marketing. “Sometimes the payoff isn't apparent,” Comstock said. But in the end, creatively rendering data helps GE “tell its story more clearly,” she said, “and then we're better able to connect with our customers.” —P.R.
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