B2P Advertising With GE

B2B? Business to Business. B2C? Business to Consumer. What the heck is B2P? Business to Prospect!

With media buys during prime time and late night, General Electric spared no expense with their “What’s The Matter With Owen?” campaign. One  purpose of this campaign is to clarify common misconceptions about GE (i.e. that they’re not just a big manufacturing company). Another purpose is to let people on the job market know that GE is a cool company where they can work on cool things that impact people’s lives in meaningful ways.

I’m a huge fan of what GE has done with these ads. Here’s my favorite commercial from the campaign. Transcription below.

[Scene: Owen walks into a room. 4 friends are waiting to surprise Owen inside this modestly decorated room with a large cake and streamers. Cake features two rows of app logos with “App-tastic News!” written in between]
Friends: SURPRISE!
Friend 1: We heard you got a job as a developer!
Owen: It’s official! I work for GE
[brief awkward silence]
Friend 2: (with a quizzical look) What?
Friend 1: wow
Owen: (still with excitement) Yeah!
Friend 1: OK
[Owen, aware that he’s lost Friends 1 & 2, turns to Friend 3. Friend 3’s gaze shifts downward in a dejected fashion when Owen looks to him]
Owen: Guys, I’ll be writing a new language for machines so planes, trains…even hospitals can work better
[streamer unintentionally explodes in Friend 3’s hands]
Friend 3: Sorry, I was trying to put it away
Owen: Got it on the cake
Friend 4: So you’re gonna work on a train?
Owen: Not on a train. On trains. (Owen’s eyes and hands communicate the awesomeness of what’s just been said – this falls on deaf ears and blind eyes)
[White overlay text on screen reads: “The digital company. That’s also an industrial company”]
Friend 4: You’re not gonna develop stuff…anymore?

[Fade to black, overlay stays in place]

And here are the other ads in the campaign (no transcription included for these)

“Hammer”: Owen is gifted a hammer when he announces his new job with GE to his parents

“Zazzies”: Owen gets a new job at GE, but his friend got a job working on an app that lets you put fruit hats on cats

Why do I love this campaign?

1. Big Time B2P Advertising

Lots of companies advertise to build their brands. They want their competitors and customers to perceive them in a certain way, so they communicate about themselves in that way.

This campaign is different in that it is meant to shape the perception of GE in the minds of prospective hires. GE wants millennial engineers to come work for them and they want them so badly that they’re paying for placement during shows like the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. This is not common – and it is not cheap.

It is also not stupid (in theory). With tech heavyweight guests like Elon Musk (SpaceX CEO), Brian Chesky (AirBnB CEO) and Travis Kalanack (Uber CEO) in its opening weeks, LSSC was certain to draw its fair share of millennial engineer viewers.

Overall, I love the big bet on this unconventional method. Recruitment for talent is challenging and expensive. But this campaign is so well done, I believe that finding a large platform for it is certain to pay an outsize return of awareness, positive brand equity, and job application submissions for GE.

The only thing that gives me pause here is the question of whether or not these millennial engineers watched the shows in this media buy live and subjected themselves to commercials. Millennials are cord cutters and they watch their tv on a time shifted basis – meaning that there’s a decent chance many never saw these commercials (#yikes)

2. Common Ground Communicated Excellently

I also love this campaign because of how well GE uses it to establish common ground with their intended target. They accomplish this by communicating three truths.

The first truth is that no one really understands what GE does. It can be seen in the collective dejection felt by Owen’s friends when he tells them he’s going to work for GE. It can also be seen in Owen’s father passing down to Owen the large hammer Owen’s grandfather used when he worked in a GE factory. GE is so much more than manufacturing facilities, but good luck finding normal people who believe otherwise.

The second truth is that in the same way, no one really understands what engineers do. Not only do Owen’s parents think that GE is just a large manufacturing plant, they also think their engineer son does something that is distinctly *not* engineering. This is a feeling that every engineer has felt at one point or another. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people have thought I would be able to fix their car once I completed my degree in mechanical engineering.

The third truth is that no matter how groundbreaking or impactful your work, people will view it as equally as meaningful (or *not quite* as meaningful) as an app that puts fruit hats on cats. “Zazzies” says it all. People appreciate what they can understand – and, as we discussed above, they don’t really understand what engineers do.

With this campaign, GE  tells prospects that they get them. That’s big. Everything about these commercials is a “You’ll fit in with us because we’re just like you. You’re an engineer. We know what that’s like, we’re engineers.” And everything about these commercials is working really well to GE’s intended end of driving demand for employment among their target.

Additionally, in establishing common ground, GE also takes the time to introduce themselves to prospects as “The digital company. That’s also an industrial company” There’s a hierarchy. Digital first, industrial second. There’s a place for Owen’s grandfather’s hammer, but GE is so much more than that. It subtly calls their target to change their thinking and consider submitting an application for this awesome digital company – and that’s awesome.

Until Next Time

  • Charlie Spencer

    This campaign just confuses the heck out of me, and I find the individual ads annoying. If I have to Google the web to find out what GE is trying to say (and I had to), it strikes me that they’re doing a lousy job of saying it.

    Maybe it’s because I’m 56 network administrator, not a millennial. Maybe it’s because I assume most people already know GE is a conglomerate spread across multiple sectors, not just appliances. However, trendy mobile apps have never been one of those sectors, so I don’t get why the character’s friends insist on thinking GE does that, refusing to listen to his explanations. It’s as if he said he was going to work for NASA and all his friend think he’s going to pilot drones.