Throughout its history General Electric Co. enjoyed the benefits of a consistent marketing message. From the 1930s to the 1950s the company relied on the slogan ‘‘Live better electrically,’’ which was followed by two decades of variations on the word ‘‘progress,’’ such as ‘‘Progress is our most important product.’’ In 1979 GE unveiled ‘‘We bring good things to life,’’ a cornerstone to one of the most successful corporate branding campaigns in history, backed by about $1 billion in advertising. The company also had consistent leadership in the form of John F. ‘‘Jack’’ Welch, who became chairman and CEO in 1981. The charismatic leader sought to build up GE’s status in all of the technology, service, and manufacturing areas that the company participated in. By the time Welch announced that he would retiring in 2001, GE, fast growing and profitable, had a market capitalization of $505 billion, making it second only to Microsoft. Welch’s tenure at the top, however, ended on a sour note when GE failed in its bid to acquire a major rival, Honeywell International.
Welch was succeeded by Immelt, who set out to put his own imprint on GE by, among other things, revamping the company’s marketing. According to Diane Scarponi, writing in the Seattle Times, ‘‘Immelt said shortly after he was appointed in September 2001 that he wanted to rethink the company’s image.’’ Beth Comstock, head of communications at GE, told Scarponi, ‘‘Immelt has really been pushing a technology focus, a reinvigoration of technology at GE around the world.… Read the rest