Ecomagination is more than an ad campaign. The effort encompasses research and development as well as marketing and advertising.
"Ecomagination is unique in that it is truly the first marketing-led business initiative at GE," said Judy Hu, global executive director of advertising and branding. "It is a platform across many businesses, featuring products and services that will help improve the environment."
The effort includes products and services such as solar energy, hybrid locomotives, fuel cells, lower-emission aircraft engines, lighter and stronger materials, efficient lighting and water purification technology.
As part of the Ecomagination launch, GE announced it would double its investment in R&D for environmentally sound products, with plans to reach $1.50 billion in such spending by 2010.
GE also said it would double revenue from products and services that provide measurable environmental performance advantages to customers, reaching $20 billion by 2010.
In addition, it pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1% by 2012.
The effort was introduced by GE Chairman-CEO Jeff Immelt at an event in Washington, D.C., in May 2005 that was attended by customers, academics and prominent environmentalists.
It was supported by a global ad campaign including TV, print and online. The budget for the campaign was undisclosed.
"We were charged by GE to come up with positioning that talks about all the good things GE is doing for the environment," said Don Schneider, exec VP-executive creative director at BBDO New York.
"The good news is they really are helping the environment with all of these great products, from jet engines and locomotives to wind power and solar energy."
In formulating the creative strategy for the campaign, BBDO creatives had an epiphany one day, Schneider said.
"Anyone who is talking about the environment is essentially talking about dwindling resources," he said. "The epiphany was [that] we had put our stake in the ground with `Imagination at Work' [a campaign launched in 2003], and imagination is truly the only unlimited resource in the world."
BBDO coined the term "Ecomagination" to reflect the convergence of imagination and technology, Schneider said.
"The test of a great insight is whether it easily extrapolates out to an integrated campaign, and this did," he added.
The first TV spot, called "Singin' in the Rain," featured an animated elephant dancing in the jungle to introduce GE's environmental campaign.
Three other TV spots for specific products followed-GE aircraft engines, cleaner coal technology and the Evolution locomotive.
Print was another important component of the campaign, kicking off with an eight-page insert that ran in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Two other print efforts, "Shadows" and "Audobon," ran in general-interest publications, as well as targeted b-to-b publications including Aviation Week & Space Technology, Bloomberg Markets, BusinessWeek, The Economist and Forbes.
In the "Shadows" ads, the shadows of GE products appear as images drawn from nature. In one ad, the shadow of a jet airplane, powered by GE aircraft engines, is reflected as a giant bird. In another, the shadow of a GE locomotive is reflected as a herd of zebras.
The "Audubon" campaign also fuses images from nature with GE products. The ads feature stamps resembling those issued by the Audubon Society, with images of GE products, such as locomotives and airplanes, integrated into the nature scenes.
The online campaign for Ecomagination uses several interactive elements to draw users in and engage them with the GE brand.
GE created on online game called Geoterra, in which users click on company products and services--such as windmills, light bulbs and power plants--to make the fictitious island of Geoterra more energy efficient. So far, users from 130 countries have registered to play the game.
In an online viral effort, called "Seeds," users create online flowers by typing in words such as "grow" and "water." Users can e-mail the flowers to friends and colleagues and post their original creations in a GE online gallery.
Following the U.S. debut, Ecomagination was launched in Germany, Japan and China. Each launch was heralded by a live event similar to the debut in Washington.
"Integration has been critical globally as we build our brand, particularly in places where GE is not as well known as in the U.S.," Hu said. "Having one global campaign with the same message, look and feel is critical to us as we roll it out."
Ecomagination is proving to be successful. Revenue from Ecomagination products in 2005 totaled $10.10 billion, up 63% from 2004.