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Becoming market makers with "brilliant machines"

GE is leading an industrial revolution in applying the “internet of things” to business processes and equipment. The challenge however is to make sense of the new possibilities in ways that capture the imagination of businesses and consumers.

brilliant machines GETommy Lee Jones, dressed all in black, describes how GE is providing hospitals with software that invisibly connects patients to nurses to doctors to machines, reducing down time and improving care … GE has become a storyteller, helping businesses and consumers to understand the potential of new technologies to make life better.

CMO Beth Comstock says she by “connects the dots” between products and people, whilst also making sense of fast changing markets, looking for new patterns and opportunities. Comstock says a great marketer “translates observations into insights that can move a business or product forwards”. However that is not just about brand and communicating what exists, “Marketing is now about creating and developing new markets; not just identifying opportunities but also making them happen.”

She describes herself as a market maker. “To be an effective marketer, you have to go outside, you have to see what’s happening and be a translator. You have to immerse yourself in the customer world.” She talks of rural doctors in China and farmers in Africa, where she sees GE making most difference, and most money.

Customer innovation centres across the world drive this innovation within markets. In Chengdu, China, for example, local and global marketers and researchers collaborate on new initiatives in mobile, affordable healthcare, and green energy. Others sources of ideas come from new types of open partnerships and innovation competitions.

Communicating ideas in more human, intuitive ways is important to GE. Whilst advertising still matters, it is the integrated use of videos, social media and events that engage people more deeply. “The idea of an ad as a separate entity is gone. Brands are content publishers and consumers are, too” says Comstock. Facebook is used as GE’s social “hub” for engaging both business customers, and end consumers. There are over 30 GE pages including social health and fitness apps. Google+ is used more to reach technical audiences with videos and articles, whilst Pinterest is more female focused, with lifestyle photos, stories and quotes. Twitter is for business users, keeping stories topical and drawing people in. Youtube is more of a background library complementing TV ads.

Pivot points for GE in “changing the game” of industrial products include

  • Explore: Being a market maker, finding and defining markets in your own vision
  • Disrupt:  Creating new ways in which markets work, products and people connect
  • Resonate: Harnessing the power of storytelling for both business and consumers
  • Enable: Focusing on how the brand helps people to live better lives

One of the company’s biggest growth strategies is based on the “industrial internet” or to most of us, the “Internet of Things,” applying digital and social technologies to machines – from brain scanners to wind turbines – to improve their effectiveness. The emerging data helps GE and its clients to design and operate better machines. But to communicate these new opportunities requires stories – as powerful for business customers as for consumers. GE’s new storyline is about “Brilliant Machines” features, for example Night Rider’s KIT supercar getting a 21st century upgrade thanks to GE.


A Strategist’s Guide to Industry 4.0Global businesses are about to integrate their operations into a seamless digital whole, and thereby change the world. (Strategy+Business, May 2016)

GE’s digital leader Bill Ruh on the “Industrial Internet” Revolution: During the next few years the Industrial Internet will turn every company into a digitally empowered enterprise. (Strategy+Business, February 2017)

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