General Electric has a funny series of TV ads that turns company history on its head. They star Owen, a geeky recent college grad (think “The Big Bang Theory”) who has landed a job at GE. This move totally baffles his friends and family. “Do you know what GE is?” Owen asks. Forget the old Fortune 100 company co-founded by Thomas Edison in 1892; GE is now “the world’s premier digital industrial company.” Owen doesn’t mention that headquarters is moving from the stuffy Connecticut suburbs to the Boston waterfront, but recruiters do.
The Owen campaign must be doing well because GE keeps running it on big-budget programs like the Academy Awards and the World Series. Two synonyms for corporate history are reputation and branding; GE is using these ads to update its brand. Fair enough, but I wish GE’s long and storied history wasn’t quite so buried on its website, where you have to drill down three levels (News/About Us/History) to find a bulky timeline organized by categories (leadership, light, energy, etc.; see screenshot below). It will be interesting to see how GE handles its 125th anniversary, coming up in 2017.