Headquarters: Fairfield, Conn. Brand established: 1892 2005 advertising: $1.2 billion 2006 Interbrand/BusinessWeek ranking: No. 4 Brand value: $61 billion CoreBrand ranking: 1
STRENGTHS: Roth: Considered by virtually every brand study there is as one of the strongest brands in the world—consumer or otherwise—it remains the gold standard for corporate brand management. Ries: [Former chairman-CEO] Jack Welch’s strategy of being No. 1 or No. 2 in every industry the company participates in has put GE in a strong long-term position. In addition, the company does a great job of building a strong management team. CHALLENGES: Ries: You can only squeeze a lemon so much. Sooner or later, GE’s growth will slow and the company will have trouble keeping those great managers. Roth: Keeping any successful marketing effort continually fresh and engaging is always a challenge, though GE’s long track record suggests it is well up to the task.
One of the top global brands, GE continues to build awareness as it expands its presence in new markets around the world. This year, the company was No. 1 in CoreBrand’s annual ranking of the world’s most valuable brands and No. 4 in Interbrand/BusinessWeek’s best global brands survey.
“GE is the best managed and best global conglomerate brand,” said Jan Lindemann, global managing director of Interbrand.
General Electric Corp. has emphasized its prowess in engineering and innovation through “Imagination at Work,” a campaign by BBDO New York that debuted in 2003. The campaign was a major rebranding effort to change people’s perceptions about GE from a company that manufactures lightbulbs and appliances to one that produces technologies for wind power, water, jet engines and security systems.
Last year, GE rolled out “Ecomagination” as an extension to its “Imagination at Work” campaign, focusing on how the company makes products that are good for the environment. Ecomagination was also created by BBDO New York.
“One of GE’s growth challenges, going into the green space with Ecomagination, is how well they can deliver behind that,” Lindemann said.
GE sold $10.10 billion in environmentally friendly products in 2005, and it plans to double that by 2010. It has also pledged to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by 1% by 2012 and is already making progress on that goal, said VP-CMO Dan Henson.
One of GE’s branding priorities this year was to take the Ecomagination campaign and branding message into new regions, including India, China, the Middle East and Latin America.
“When you look at India, which has 1.2 billion people and a GDP rate that is growing at almost 8%, they need exactly what we have to offer—clean energy, clean water and other Ecomagination products,” Henson said. “The challenge for us is how do we accelerate our growth in those countries.” To help achieve this, GE plans to double its sales force in these regions over the next few years and invest in marketing infrastructure and research in these areas.
Already GE is making its presence known with a big splash in China, with ads in prominent locations at the Beijing and Shanghai airports.
“We want to take an even more global approach to global branding and global advertising campaigns,” Henson said. —K.M.