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GE Puts Hopes in Content Marketing to Draw Disparate Units into Unified Brand

June 20, 2014 | Advertising & Marketing

Katrina Craigwell
Head, Global Digital Programming
General Electric

Whether it’s jet engine technology or intermodal transportation, General Electric (GE) uses content marketing in unique ways to strengthen its corporate branding and engage a broader, less technical audience. Katrina Craigwell, head of global digital programming at GE, spoke with eMarketer’s Danielle Drolet about content marketing and the implications for marketers.

eMarketer: What is key to GE’s success in content marketing?

Katrina Craigwell: We have always kept quality in mind. Content and visual content have been incredibly helpful ways for us to tell our story to a general audience. From a corporate brand level, [it is a way to enhance our reputation].

Part of our story is that you may not know it, but chances are your life has been touched by GE technology. Whether you’ve flown on a plane powered by our jet engines, in a city that is plugged into our power generation technology, or you’ve gotten your clothing shipped by a GE locomotive.

In the US, of course, we’re a very old company, though many who are aware of GE may not have an understanding of what we do. We’re also a global company. Globally, people may be aware of GE, but the perception may be different than what it is in the US. It’s a job to explain our brand value, which is around fairly complex industrial technologies and solutions.

eMarketer: Can you give me an example of how content marketing can help with corporate branding?

Craigwell: Take the Jenbacher gas engine. As a consumer, if I tell you about the Jenbacher gas engine and mention some general products, your mind is already overloaded. But, I could show you the Jenbacher facility—a factory in Jenbach, Austria, in the middle of beautiful, scenic hills with an amazing workforce. There are machines that look like giant engines, reminiscent of something out of a sci-fi or superhero movie.

“We have a spectrum of content, which goes from heavier-weight content that might take us three months to produce, to our daily content. This content makes sure our community always has something to talk to us about.”

This starts to pique people’s interest. And, they want to know what the Jenbacher does. They’re curious about how it performs and what it powers.

eMarketer: How do you measure success of a content marketing effort?

Craigwell: Our focus is on the brand side. There is a partner component of the team run by Andy Markowitz that focuses on digital strategy for sales and lead generation. Specifically, we look at engagement, brand lift and media impressions.

We also look at things like the talent funnel. Often, engineers or scientists are curious about GE. And part of the funnel that we have to map is how do we respond to that properly? It doesn’t mean that we send them a link to GE.com/careers. Instead, we ask ourselves, “What is the path to get to that person to seal that interest and see if they might be a fit down the road?”

eMarketer: Will sales ever have a major role in content marketing?

Craigwell: There certainly is a connection between branding and sales. For example, take something such as a GE show that might be a very informative but also an entertaining piece on intermodal transportation. We can work with the businesses to use it for both brand and sales objectives.

eMarketer: How do you quantify budget for these efforts? Is it social media, digital media, native or split among several?

Craigwell: We have a digital budget, and within that budget, our programming, content production and social media strategy fall. We have a spectrum of content, which goes from heavier-weight content that might take us three months to produce, to our daily content. This content makes sure our community always has something to talk to us about.

eMarketer: Do you focus on mobile or rely on adaptive design?

Craigwell: We don’t have a definite play yet for mobile. A lot of it right now is still about figuring out what works best. But responsive design across our sites has been important. We relaunched GE.com about two years ago. It’s responsive, and we’re rolling that design out across GE.com globally.

“We are reimagining how to see ourselves in the beauty of our machines and the wonder of what’s happening in our research labs.”

We are also moving many of our blogs to Tumblr. One blog, called Txchnologist, is a site about science and technology in the industries that we operate in, and not all about GE. It basically focuses on what’s interesting and compelling that’s happening in science. We launched it about two and a half years ago on WordPress. Then we moved it to Tumblr because we figured there was this whole audience that we’re missing and not unlocking. And, they’re accessing Tumblr by the mobile app.

eMarketer: How difficult is it to shift from a marketing mindset to an editorial mindset?

Craigwell: When we think about who we’re competing with, certainly in digital storytelling, we’re competing with any publication, source or voice that’s putting out beautiful, compelling science and technology content. It’s the io9s, the Geekosystem, Gizmodos and CNET. We love those sites. We’re inspired by them, and sometimes they talk about GE stories. We are so grateful for that.

But, our content has to be as good as theirs, if not better. We have to earn the opportunities for somebody to spend time with us. Quality has been so important. We’ve done a lot of work with photography on Instagram. We are reimagining how to see ourselves in the beauty of our machines and the wonder of what’s happening in our research labs. Much of that new imagery and tone that we found in the past three years has influenced broader sets of content and our brand imagery.

eMarketer: What hasn’t worked so well or had been difficult in the past that you were able to overcome and developed a best practice?

Craigwell: We believe a lot in experimentation. Instagram was an experiment. Vine was, too. We’ve been on Pinterest. Some of those take off and have great moments. But, some may not take off. It’s important to give ourselves the leeway to experiment, assess and then either continue or pull back. This allows us to push what’s working or accept that it’s OK if something doesn’t take off.

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