Over the past 100 years, GE has used a total of nine brand slogans. The latest one was “We bring good things to life,” which had been in use for over 20 years since it was first introduced in 1980. In the fall of 2002, GE conducted extensive surveys to find out what employees, customers and investors thought about the “Good Things” theme, and found out that nearly everybody considered it to mean only two things: lighting and appliances. But in today’s reality, the broad range of products and services that are provided by GE actually covers much more than that. With thorough investigations and researches, GE finally decided on using “imagination at work” as the new advertising tagline to reflect its true spirit at the current time.
To fully introduce this new slogan to the public, GE launched the “imagination at work” advertising campaign in 2003. The campaign was designed to highlight GE's wide spectrum of innovations in areas ranging from appliances, medical, financial services, to aerospace and biotech. The preliminary feedback confirmed the public’s enthusiasm for this new direction, which had also led to increased product awareness, and most importantly, this campaign had raised the public’s positive association with the GE brand.
The television component of the campaign was debuted in January 2003. In the premier ad, the Wright Brothers' Kitty Hawk airplane was strapped with a modern GE aircraft engine. As the engine roars, the plane was then transformed into a modern jet; hence the video image was also changed from a flickering black and white historical footage to full color. In total, there were 8 different TV ads, involving areas such as wind energy, water, security, healthcare, and advance materials etc., which were intended to fully represent the multi-business scope of GE, as well as its innovation and technology leadership status in all of those areas. The TV ad was also broadcasted on China Business Network and had received very positive feedback as well.
GE logo in 14 standard colors
In the meanwhile, the new GE brand was also being applied. The most remarkable transformation was the change of the black and white GE logo into a variety of 14 colors. The Pantone7455 blue replaced black to be the most common color used in the logo. The new brand system clearly defines the brand architecture, logo, tagline lock-up, typography and colors as well as providing the instructions for ads, stationary, gifts and print productions. The brand toolkit was also tailored to meet employees’ needs, which includes email signature template, PowerPoint template, electronic letterhead and fax templates according to the norm set by the new brand system. Starting from May of 2004, employees in GE China had gradually began to use the new business cards with the silver GE logo and the 2008 Beijing Olympics logo, which signifies GE as one of the TOP sponsors. This new brand strategy certainly enhances the company’s solid image, while the strict regulations for brand usage will help maintain GE’s consistent image globally.
The “imagination at work” campaign is also GE's first foray into web advertising, with both HTML banner and rich media flash ads running on all major portals, such as AOL, Yahoo and MSN. One flash ad for the GE90-115B jet engine spells out the sentence “Imagination means taking a powerful idea and teaching it how to fly,” as an animated figure of an airplane powered by GE’s aircraft engine is shown. Another ad for GE's Lexan resin (the plastic material used for professional football helmets) says “Imagination means tackling your competition and coming out without a scratch.”
The signature interactive ad of the campaign called “Imagination,” does not tout a particular product at all, but rather invites viewers to use their own imaginations, declaring “All big ideas starts with a sketch,” and asking “What's yours?” The frame then allows users to click and drag a pencil to sketch out their own notions, which can then be saved on GE's imagination at work mini-site, as well as sent out to friends and colleagues.
On October 27th 2004, GE also launched a major advertising campaign in Beijing focusing on its support of the Olympics; this was GE’s first-ever corporate advertising campaign in China. Steve Schneider, President & CEO of GE Asia Picific, says, “Brand enhancement poses a great opportunity as well as a challenge to us as we continue to grow in China. As an Olympic worldwide partner, we want to communicate the message that GE touches the Olympics in many ways with the spirit of ‘imagination at work’.”
It is a significant revolution for the GE brand to evolve from “We bring good things to life” to the current “imagination at work”, from the black and white color logo to multi-colors. Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, once remarked that, “’imagination at work’ is more than a marketing slogan, it is a reason for being.” ”Imagination at work” is a dynamic concept, and the challenge is to make the campaign as open to continuous invention and surprises as the company itself had always been.