Storytelling to the Next Generation

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Experimenting with emerging technology to reach millennial buyers and influencers

Most people have heard of GE. Brand awareness isn't a challenge for this 125-year-old company. The challenge is overcoming past perceptions of what GE brings to world. GE is more than light bulbs. It's more than manufacturing. It's a digital industrial company that's transforming the way we move, build, cure, and power the world.

GE shows up in everyday lives, unknowingly to most. To tell our brand story and increase familiarity with who we are, our marketing approach has to mirror what we stand for: the idea that experimentation, innovation, and imagination leads to a better way. This is most applicable when engaging with the next generation of consumers (dare I use the “M” word…millennials) to get them excited about the brand.

As a product of this generation myself, it's not unique to say that we live in a busy world inundated with messages at every turn. By experimenting with new and emerging technologies and platforms—channels where most brands have not ventured before—GE sees greater opportunity to shout louder than we spend. Snapchat, Periscope, and Wattpad are among the few emerging platforms where this theory is proving results. Here are a few examples of how we use them.

Periscope: Providing tech fans inside access to GE with #DroneWeek

Taking on two hot trends in the tech space today—Periscope and Drones—GE hosted the first-ever Drone Week on Periscope. Drone Week took audiences on a one-week journey across the country to some of GE's most powerful testing facilities and provided an up close and personal look at some of the world's most badass machines. This live-streaming event showcased the beauty and power of GE jet engines, locomotives, wind turbines, and other machinery located across facilities in California, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas that would otherwise be inaccessible to the public. In tandem to watching the live stream, fans used the Periscope comment stream to ask questions of our engineers and make requests for things they wanted to view, which we would respond to in real time.


Snapchat: Creating FOMO among college students with #BrilliantTailgate

In October 2015 GE launched an open innovation challenge asking the country's best engineering students to apply big data, manufacturing, smart technology, and design to new innovations within the university setting. To kick off this challenge, GE is visiting three universities to host a #BrilliantTailgate—fully equipped with a censor-enabled BBQ super smoker, quantified corn hole, and expert engineers. We combined a live (somewhat quirky) event with an engineering student audience. All the real-time activities are shared from GeneralElectric on Snapchat, giving students across the country an opportunity to experience the event through a live story.

Wattpad: Long-form storytelling among creators with “Adventures in Science”

In the 1950s GE created the comic series “Adventures in Science” to help ignite a love of science and engineering in a new generation. Inspired by this concept today, we plan to reinvent the pivotal comic series through a partnership with Wattpad, the world's largest social community of readers and writers. Wattpad's community of comic lovers will have the opportunity to re-create and re-imagine what these 1950s stories would be about today. From “Adventures in Electricity” to “Our Place In Space” to “Inside the Atom,” science is the protagonist in each one. The goal of this program is to cultivate a new community of science writers and storytellers and foster excitement and creation in the sci-fi and “sci-real” genre.

The first step of experimentation: Ask a question

We learn about the Scientific Method in grade school. It's no different in marketing experimentation: Start with a question. Here are a few questions you may want to consider asking before you begin:

■ What's the passion point of your audience?
Identify subsets of your audience—not by age group or demographics, but by what they care about. Blindly targeting all millennials will not yield results. Personalization and relevancy are essential. Campaigns need to be personalized and tailored to a specific subset of your audience to produce the best results.

■ How do people naturally use this technology?
Embrace each platform or channel for what it is and what it can deliver. Trying to transform or alter a channel to meet a brand's needs will not resonate with the audience. Be human. On platforms like Periscope and Snapchat, the audience has come to expect raw, under-produced, imperfect content. Any other type of content would come across phony.

■ Will our audience be curious?
Be unexpected. Make it a goal to surprise and delight your audience by providing entertainment, utility, or access. With platforms like Snapchat and campaigns like DroneWeek, we gave our audience inside, exclusive access to the GE brand.

■ What's the easiest way for people to find this content?
Take out the friction to discoverability. With emerging technology channels that are closed off and don't have the same discoverability capabilities as channels, I recommend considering two paths in this instance: 1. cross-promote from other channels to drive traffic; and, 2. engage influencers within the community. Leveraging users that are already active, well-known, and engaged in a certain platform not only helps increase your brand's visibility, but also boosts engagement from your target audience.

Even the most well-known and widely used tech channels were new once, so don't be afraid to test uncharted waters. As long as your campaign is designed to inspire and engage your audience, you'll set yourself up for success.

About the author

Sydney Williams is the global social and digital marketing manager at GE. As part of the global brand marketing team, she leads social media content and strategy for GE. She's focused on introducing the brand to new platforms and audiences and concentrates on driving awareness of GE technology and innovation across digital and social channels.


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