GE’s CMO, Linda Boff, Turns Her B2B Marketing Depot into a Millennial Marketers Paradise

Linda Boff only recently took on the role of CMO at GE, but in just a little over 365 days — she has done a fantastic job of transforming GE into “the 124-year old startup.”

Mind you GE is the world’s 4th largest B2B organization and she is 100% correct when she says:

“As marketers, we have got to rip up the marketing plan because what looks really good on paper — out-of-home, social, earned media and paid media — is not the way people experience media in their lives,” states General Electric CMO Linda Boff.

Linda Boff is not trying to be a part of this statistic:

“52% of Fortune 500 companies on the list in 2000 have fallen off since then as a result of mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies.” — Capgemini

GE is 124 years old — age is no excuse for irrelevancy.

Big box brands are the most FINANCIALLY able to sustain transformations from traditional marketing to content marketing. Think about slightly smaller brands that have media buys in billboards and television that they can’t break. They can’t just cut out of those. It is extremely expensive to transition — there is always a bridge of time between releasing old methods and embracing new methods.

Boff’s embraces all the challenges aggressively, yet elegantly. Her approach is not a band-aid — it’s a TRUE transformation.

Here are 5 key ways she has transformed GE into a millennials paradise!

1. Tear GE’s entire marketing department apart. WOOT!

Restructure the marketing department to be more of a newsroom. Her first 12 months were spent systemizing the marketing department to foster an agile, startup mentality aimed at delivering cutting-edge results.

I usually say: All brands must become media. Others say, all brands must become “Storytelling brands.” Gary V calls it “Documentation.” Guess what — it doesn’t matter what you call it: become a brand that “publishes the right content at the right time” online and you WILL thrive.

Boff knows that marketing has moved light years from the model in which a CMO would create “the winning” message, distribute it across three or four media networks and it would be seen by 40 million people who she says were also “watching Cheers or Friends” — — it’s true we don’t even really watch TV anymore. lol.

She doesn’t have a 25 person marketing department. She has a disruption lab.

This is a team that is divided into three ‘labs’ — disruption, creative and performance — with the aim of putting experimentation at the heart of the business.creative and performance — with the aim of putting experimentation at the heart of the business.

  1. The disruption lab is focused on future technology, platforms and entrepreneurs
  2. The creative lab covers media, advertising, content, sponsorship and experience.
  3. The performance lab is designed to drive results.

This agile structure is aided by an open office design, which has the marketing, communications and business innovation teams sitting together. If you’ve been reading my stuff lately, you will see that this is a much-needed approach in ensuring that marketers don’t get strung out — READ: LinkedIn’s Top 10 Skills for 2017 Report Sheds Hope For That Bulging Vein Under Vaynerchuk’s Eye

2. Stop being a pansy! Be FIRST on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram

She does not allow GE to sit in fear, waiting for other brands to test growing platforms. She’s not idly twiddling her thumbs and waiting for Snapchat to prove itself… to eventually dip GE’s pinky toe in it. No, no — she want’s to BE THERE FIRST. If there are followers, there is an audience. It’s not about if the medium fits GE — — it’s all about how is GE going to harness the medium to get GE messages across:

For example:

  • An early adopter of Facebook Live, last June GE ran a series called Drone Week, where a drone visited a GE factory every day for five days streaming the activity live on Facebook.
  • Boff’s team has also found multiple ways to use Snapchat, from filming Snapchat ‘Stories’ at its Fort Worth locomotive facility using Snap ‘Spectacles’ to creating a story from its thought leadership event Minds + Machines in San Francisco.

3. Recruiting in the most out-of-the-box way possible to attract the right talent!

Who wants to work for a company that has an HR director that doesn’t understand the first thing about marketing trends? GE employs 300,000 people — they know that to stay relevant they had to do something absolutely unique to attract the right talent. What did they do? They launched the “What’s Wrong with Owen?”

This campaign stars “Owen,” a newly-minted GE employee who works as a programmer/developer but can’t quite explain to friends or family what he and his new company actually do all day.

It all starts with some “Big News.”

Then the “Hammer,” it’s time to talk to mom and dad, who remind us both that GE used to be a company made up of MEN building stuff with their HANDS and that tech employees always manage to double as 90-pound weaklings.

Finally, it’s time to get serious. In “Zazzies,” poor Owen has to compare his job (which actually helps facilitate the manufacture and sale of useful consumer and business products) to that of a colleague whose company makes pet-friendly emoji apps.

All spots encourage online viewers to visit GE’s careers page, where they can learn more about the 5,300+ job opportunities currently open around the world.The campaign was a hit and in the year since launching recruitment of engineers and computer scientists has increased by 800%. Those spots ran on cable and digital channels throughout the fall, to attract the right talent that would ignite the brand’s social channels to explain his new job to curious onlookers while “posting behind-the-scenes moments.”

Believe it or not, various generations just don’t want to be in the spotlight documenting behind the scenes of their jobs on Facebook live. This is a HUGE problem when a company as large as GE wants to make waves online. Brands are competing against puppy pictures online. Big box brands need employee’s advocating the brand online to really give it that boost into visibility. It’s the right thinking to try to attract talent that already embraces the now versus well — we won’t go there. We can’t just fire everyone who doesn’t embrace the here and now — it’s not a job requirement to want to be seen on Facebook live. Right? So, GE’s approach is to attract a new stream of employee’s that will create a group within GE to champion the way is smart!

4. Don’t pretend because you are the CMO of GE that you know it all. Facilitate marketing POW-WOWS…

Boff hosts lunches for women in media and marketing, as well as spearheading the CMO Challenge, a pledge for CMOs to spend at least five hours a year in a classroom teaching the next generation.

5. Boff 100% acknowledges that she must lead with valuable content, whether it’s 20 second or 20 minutes of her audiences time

This is the part that some brands really and truly struggle with — they know “content is king” or “distribution is king” but the truth is content that gets shared strikes a chord in it’s readers. Meaning, it has to be deep and create impact. Content marketing success is largely based on hitting the TRI-EFFECT of educational, inspiring or entertaining.

► Build Key Relationships By Delivering Value First

“90% of consumers find custom content useful, 78% believe that companies behind content are interested in building good relationships.” Source: TMG Custom Media

Boff truly knows and accepts this all to be true and reinforces it within her every amazing leadership move! She says,

“When we talk about our storytelling, we think what’s the value exchange? Someone has given up 20 seconds or 20 minutes of their time but what are they getting in return?That’s something as marketers we need to think about. Once upon a time we all said ‘content is king’, then we said ‘distribution is king’. Really it’s about the user and how we are serving him or her.”

So YES, I am a big fan of Linda Boff.

To raise her, we gotta praise her — write your own post or share this post to knock some sense into this world!

Author Corinne Meier is a manager of custom content services with more than 7 years’ experience counseling brands on their content. Follow Corinne on Twitter + Medium @MeierMarketing and tweet her your #ContentGame strategies or content marketing classes to her.