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GE CMO Beth Comstock: B-to-B Marketers Can't Sell If They Can't Tell a Story

Sets Tone For Conference and State of Business Marketing

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Beth Comstock
Beth Comstock

B-to-b marketers will see more long-term value in telling the story of their brand than just trying to feed the sales pipeline, GE CMO Beth Comstock said Wednesday at the annual Business Marketing Association meeting in Chicago.

Business marketing can and should have emotion, and connect with people first, said Ms. Comstock, the top marketer at one of the largest and best-known business marketers.

GE's recent campaign from BBDO was designed to do that, she said. The push, including frequent TV commercials, highlights the company's role in building underwater turbines powered by tides; connecting health-care institutions through mobile devices; and helping create trains that are more environmentally friendly. The spots add an emotional element by describing the efforts through the eyes of a young girl whose mom works at the company.

"It's important to have a strong brand and communicate who you are," she said. "Right now we are telling the story of one GE. It's the same if you are targeting consumers directly or businesses. We are all people."

"I've made it my calling to say business marketing does not have to be boring marketing," Ms. Comstock added. "You can't sell anything if you can't tell anything. We've had to create content that appeals to a wide range of customers and shareholders."

GE marketing has to overcome significant challenges, Ms. Comstock said, like trying to communicate one clear story about a 130-year-old brand that's involved in a wide variety of products and services around the world. But companies anxious to establish or re-establish their identity with customers can benefit from thinking of marketing and how to use it in the right way, regardless of their size, she said.

Marketing executives also need to forge bonds with other parts of their companies, Ms. Comstock said. "Marketers have a tough job inside an organization. People don't know what to make of us. We need to better connect ourselves with product development and sales. We're not there yet but we are holding ourselves accountable."

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