Kids represent innocence, potential, inspiration, vibrancy, youth and indeed, imagination. And GE lately has been incorporating them into its advertising and marketing moves.
It’s certainly not a new phenomenon; tons of marketers over decades have featured kids in their ads, from Mikey in Life cereal ads to E-Trade’s talking baby to the funny kids in AT&T’s popular “It’s Not Complicated” campaign of last year.
Done correctly, kids can be a hit. “Kids are often a plus in ads, especially young ones, in terms of attracting attention and generally creating positive affect and warm feelings,” said Kevin Keller, the E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at Tuck School of Business. “Think Bill Cosby with Jell-O or, more recently, Ally Bank with their launch campaign with the bank spokesperson ‘tricking’ kids. And, of course, AT&T too,” he said.
“The danger of any borrowed-interest technique is that it distracts from the message and/or the brand itself–certainly the case with kids,” Keller added. “And kids as actors can come across as phony or fake. But if done right, they can bring warmth, fun or joy to a brand.”
For GE, aligning with kids helps the company send a message that invention and science are cool—for this generation and future ones. And that’s consistent with the corporate behemoth’s overarching brand story. Here are some recent examples of how GE’s incorporated children in its marketing efforts recently:
* In conjunction with that spot, GE asked the kids of their employees “What does GE do?” and had professional illustrators illustrate responses to bring these ideas to life.
* To kick off its “22 Days of Invention” campaign last month, the company invited Kid President down to its Aviation Lab to learn how to become an inventor.
* GE partnered with “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (who is also an inventor) for a new recurring segment called Fallonventions that showcases kid inventors. GE, which sponsors “The Tonight Show,” also awarded each kid with a $5,000 for education.
I caught up with GE Global Marketing Director Linda Boff to learn more about the strategy and backstory.
Why incorporate kids in this way? What message are you trying to send?
Our provocation was, how do we find a way to communicate the excitement about the GE brand, our DNA around science and invention and technology, and how do we tell the broad story of the company? The device that we decided about was what you saw during the Olympics: View invention and science through the eyes of the child—be imaginative and worldly and inspirational all at once. How do we make the brand relevant and be relevant in the world that’s important to us and how do we tell this story that was simple and profound at the same time?
This idea of childlike imagination was born of that and from there we started to expand it. We are always interested in reaching new audiences. The brand been around for 134 years, and being relevant is always important.
How else did you incorporate them?
We asked our own employees to ask their children to share their thoughts with us via our intranet. We created this “22 Days of Invention” campaign and we kicked it off with Kid President. [We embraced] that innocence or simplicity that can come from a child’s questions.
A little later in the month we partnered with Jimmy Fallon. For us each of these [moves] blends into a strategy that is brand relevant using inspirational creative storytelling to do it and reach new audience.
How is this a departure from past campaigns?
The last big brand campaign was “Brilliant Machines,” which ran for most of last year. It was a 14-month-long campaign. [It was centered on this] idea of the industrial internet. We used famous robots to make this broad concept approachable and accessible. I guess I would say [it was our way to answer], how do we take a diverse company and make ourselves as accessible as possible? It makes us more approachable and more inherently accessible if you bring famous robots or a child’s imagination to bring things to life.
How long will the current campaign run?
We just started the campaign. It will continue to run at different point throughout the year, because it is big and anthemic. You may see it not just on TV but in cinemas before movies start. We will be running it globally but in different languages. We will also see to feather in things that are key to the company. In this first spot, “Childlike Imagination,” we saw things emerge around aviation and healthcare, and we will feather in deeper dives that get deeper into these topics. We’ll stay with it this year.
What does it do for the brand?
When I think about children I think it’s also wonder and awe and as a company that has stood for invention, this idea of invention, of innovating, of solving the tough problems is one that we think requires wonder as well as hard work. On the child side, this idea that children dream without limitation, that’s the sort of unbridled creativity that leads to solving problems and inventing tomorrow’s technologies. Highlighting a young girl talking about her mom—the response was very strong not just from women but from men and women.
How much is the impetus a hiring strategy?
When you can put a face on [the concept of], we want the very best engineers and technologists and we are that employer of choice for great women and men, it doesn’t get any better—it really doesn’t.
Source: Forbes Business