GE Gets 30% Better Returns Through Smart Content Marketing

CMO Beth Comstock on her brand's five-year comeback

General Electric's popularity dipped during the 2008 recession, but the massive brand has since more than recovered. How big has content marketing been in the company's comeback?

"We've done some research on our content marketing," said CMO Beth Comstock, speaking with Adweek at the ANA Masters of Marketing conference. "And we get 30 percent extra value for every dollar spent."

How important have Facebook, Twitter and other social channels been to the brand's revival? After all, those platforms were either nascent or nonexistent back when the GE turnaround began.

"I think social media has been a big part of it because it makes us relevant in a lot of new ways," said Comstock, who came on board shortly after the recession. The business strategy has had more focus, and social media has helped channel it.

In one of the intriguing initiatives that Comstock led, GE, with Vayner Media, in August ran a Vine-based program dubbed #6SecondScience that combined content with social. GE has also tested native ads on publishing platforms such as BuzzFeed while orchestrating countless video efforts.

"We've been on a five-year journey, and we are still trying to figure this out," she said.

Increasingly, Comstock suggested, data is leading her team's content strategy. "Make big data small and have fun with it," she said.

Content marketing right now may only take a backseat to so-called Big Data when it comes to hot topics with global brands. Unilever and Qualcomm are among those who have recently lauded their storytelling strategies as keys to continued growth.

For brands trying to catch up, Comstock prescribed these tips: "It starts by knowing who you are and what you stand for—without that, you are all over the place. And try a lot of things. You know who are, but you need to experiment. It doesn't cost a lot of money."

And lastly, a quote about "micro-relevance" worth highlighting from her presentation: "Sometimes you might want to connect with 4 million people. But sometimes maybe you really only want 4,000…or 400. It's about getting it right with the right audience."

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