GE CMO Tells Content Marketing World Crowd to ‘Change the Lens’

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GE will be spending the first week of October appearing where few B2B brands have gone before: on the TV channel owned by Vice Media to promote its DroneWeek series, the firm’s CMO told the Content Marketing World audience.

In her keynote speech kicking off the three-day even in Cleveland Wednesday, Linda Boff said Drone Week — where GE customers use unmanned arial vehicles to film feats of industrial engineering — provided a good example of how even “invisible” companies like hers can gain mainstream attention.

“We love the lens that a drone gives you that you might not have otherwise. I would actually say that’s a good way to approach content marketing — think about the lens (you have) and how you can change that lens,” Boff said. “For us, it’s a constant fight every day to be relevant, to be contemporary, to be relatable, to be modern. Everybody is aware of who GE is, but we want them to know us for who we are today.”

DroneWeek began as a video series on Periscope, and later Facebook Live. This year’s series, which Boff said will be featured for five nights on Viceland beginning Oct. 9, is part of GE’s ongoing effort to experiment with platforms to find audiences. “I don’t think we would have gotten on Viceland in year one,” she said.

Besides DroneWeek, GE’s content marketing tactics have included putting its data scientists to help cook the perfect brisket at a “BBQ research lab” at South X Southwest; creating sneakers made with the same materials as those worn by Buzz Aldrin for the 45th anniversary of the moon landing, and The Message, a longform show on “GE Podcast Theater,” which Boff’s team launched a few years ago.

“We’re not precious about how we tell stories. With a lot of new platforms, the barrier of entry is very low,” Boff said, encouraging the CMWorld 2017 crowd to experiment early and often. “It’s not costly to go on Instagram before they monetize it. It wasn’t costly to go on Snapchat or Facebook or Twitter. You learn so much . . . You have to be on the playing field. You can’t just read about platforms.”

GE’s success reflect a growing shift in emphasis among content marketers to go beyond just producing more blog posts, videos and other assets. Joe Pulizzi, co-founder of the Content Marketing Institute, shared topline results from the organization’s most recent research that showed 90 per cent of firms that felt they are doing well with content marketing are focusing on building audiences.

“Traffic and shares are good, but they’re not enough,” he said. “You need an audience — a loyal and trusting audience.”

When brands secure those audiences, they are starting to see new business models emerging where content becomes a profit centre, Pulizzi said. This includes consumer brands like Pepsi and Red Bull but also Cleveland Clinic, which he said has generated seven figures in direct revenue through content created on its platform.

As tempting as it might be, though, there are no hacks or short-cuts to gaining an audience, said Jay Acunzo, a podcaster and host of Unthinkable.

“Too much of our work copies. It blends in, or it fades away in the minds of our audience,” he said. “Do we think critically? Nah, we just Google it.”

Instead, Acunzo said marketers should spend more time learning about their cusotmers, recognizing that content marketing is really about  “inspiring your true believers, not coercing the skeptics.”

Content Marketing World runs through Friday morning.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.