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By The Drum, Editorial

December 14, 2023 | 6 min read

GE has one of the most recognizable logos in the world, but it can be a challenge to find fresh ways to market a brand that was founded in the late nineteenth century. In this month’s edition of Convene. Challenge. Change., an editorial partnership between The Drum and the 4A’s, we explore how Giant Spoon has helped GE keep its marketing as innovative as its products.

General Electric, more commonly known as GE, was founded in 1892. One of its cofounders was legendary inventor Thomas Edison. Over the past 131 years, the company has grown to become a titan of American industry and a symbol of mechanical ingenuity.

Given GE’s long and decorated track record, it doesn’t face much of a brand awareness problem. It does, however – like all brands that continue to grow for decades on end – need to continually come up with new and creative approaches to marketing, if it is to remain relevant in a constantly changing world.

This is precisely where its long-standing partnership with marketing agency Giant Spoon shines most brightly, according to chief marketing officer Linda Boff. In a recent conversation with the 4A’s president Marla Kaplowitz and Laura Correnti, a partner at Giant Spoon, Boff said that GE’s “forever brief” is for the brand’s “marketing to be as innovative as the DNA of [the] company.” What the company has found in Giant Spoon, and in Correnti in particular, Boff says, “is a kindred spirit who understands that we are always pushing for that opportunity to find new ways, new places, and new voices to tell our story.”

A little over a decade ago, Boff had recently been named as CMO at GE and was on the lookout for marketing partnerships. She came across what she describes as a “very clever campaign” that had been launched for GE Capital – the company’s financial services arm – called “Mid-Market Mondays,” which sought to capture customers’ attention on the first day of the workweek, when they were likely to be most focused at work.

This creative approach also captured Boff’s attention. She sent Correnti an email, and the two met the following day at GE headquarters 30 Rockefeller Center – the General Electric Building – in Manhattan. “The rest was history,” says Correnti.

The innovative potency that was sparked by GE’s partnership with Giant Spoon led, in November of last year, to what Correnti describes as a “New York Times takeover.” The previous year, GE had announced that it would be dividing into three separate companies: GE Aerospace, GE Healthcare and GE Vernova. (The third would be devoted to energy.)

Following the announcement, Correnti recalls that Boff called her and said: “We need the biggest [marketing] idea we’ve ever come up with, and we need it in a few weeks.” The core theme of the new campaign had to be focus – ”because splitting into three companies is about focus,” says Boff. “It's about being able to deliver more focused attention to our customers in aerospace, health and energy.

The two turned their attention to print journalism, which they believed was the medium that was most conducive to holding people’s focus – as opposed to, say, streaming and social media, which are less amenable to long attention spans. The result was essentially a full-issue marketing campaign in the Times: twenty-seven full-page ads in a single edition, the first marketing effort of its kind in the paper’s then-171-year history, according to Boff. The ads didn’t include just images and copy; there were also puzzles mixed throughout, all of which revolved around the central theme of focus.

GE also launched another marketing campaign, created in collaboration with BBDO, in September of this year to mark the official launch of GE Vernova and GE Aerospace.

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What’s next for GE and Giant Spoon? Boff and Correnti don't reveal many details in their recent conversation with Kaplowitz, but Correnti does hint at another big campaign that could be coming soon: “You’re going to see quite the mic drop from [GE] … really leaning into the cultural zeitgeist of the moment,” says Correnti.

Watch the full conversation in the video above.

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