In the 1952 GE annual report, GE defined marketing as an omnibus concept and stated “The marketing department will establish for the engineer, the designer, and the manufacturing man what the consumer wants in a given product, what price he is willing to pay, and where and when it will be wanted. Marketing will have the authority in product planning, product scheduling, and inventory control, as well as sales, distribution and servicing the products.”
In the October 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review the Senior Vice President of GE and its current Chief Marketing Officer, Beth Comstock, co-authored an article stating that “Just 10 years ago General Electric had no substantial marketing organization” and “At best it was considered a support function; at worst, overhead.” She claims that for decades the company had been technology driven and felt its products would market themselves. What happened between 1952 and 2010? How could this have happened and how could the current CMO need to reinvent marketing from scratch?
As if to repeat the past, the current CEO of GE, Jeffrey Immelt, issued a mandate that marketing should become a vital operating function across GE. Perhaps he should have more correctly stated, “re-become.”
Unfortunately the article gives us no insights into how GE got into this mess and became a technology driven company and not a market driven company. Perhaps because their CMO does not recognize what happened over 60 years or does not think it relevant.
We see this as a much more relevant question than how they went about getting their “marketing back” because if you can lose it once, you can lose it again … assuming you succeed in getting it back.