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How GE’s “Unimpossible Missions” Captures the Art of the Story

As someone who is passionate about—as well as committed to—the power and efficacy of “The Art of the Story,” I am constantly looking for good examples of where a company or organization is using their story to explain who they are and why they matter, and to connect that story to their brand in new ways.

What usually captures my attention are the hidden gems,  those shining examples found in the most unlikely places. One of those is in GE’s recently launched campaign,”Unimpossible Missions”. Check out the Ad Age article about it.

What makes it powerful?

GE and their agency BBDO capture the “why” – why they do what they do, and “what” they as a company do in a very simple, yet dramatic way. Appropriating popular idioms, such as ‘a snowballs chance in hell’ and ‘catching lightening in a bottle,’ the campaign reveals how they can actually turn those figures of speech into reality through science and technology. I admit, it captivated me.

Unimpossible Missions and the GE Brand

But how does that relate to the GE brand? GE is an enormous, complicated company operating in dozens of different sectors from technology to manufacturing to heavy industry to professional services to consumer products, and more.

What is their “why”? What links all of this together in terms of what they actually do as a company?

I like how GE CMO Linda Boff explained it: “As a brand, we are constantly thinking about what’s new and next for the world with our technology, and to mirror that it in our marketing and the way we tell our story. It is representative of how we think as a company – it’s in our DNA.… This idea of how can we break this notion of ‘impossible.’ It is kind of a mission everyone who works at GE — particularly our scientists and engineers — wakes up and thinks about.”

The “Unimpossible Missions” campaign captures GE’s why: to make a potentially dramatic impact on the world using science and technology in new ways. It also clarifies the what: to take extraordinarily bright and talented people, with the tremendous resources of GE, and turn them loose to solve ‘impossible’ dilemmas or challenges. That’s a pretty big story, creatively told. Who wouldn’t want to learn more or potentially be involved with a company like that?

Through the “The Art of the Story,” GE gives us all a reason to care, a reason to listen, a reason to engage with them, with their brand.

Emotional Impact of Memorable Stories

While GE makes it look easy, it’s not, particularly for B2B tech companies. Why? Because these companies are very often built by technologists and engineers and then run by a combination of technologists, engineers and salespeople.

What often gets lost in translation is: Why are we (the company) doing this at all? What impact or outcome are we really delivering for our customers? What is it we are doing that fundamentally changes their lives?

Jonathan Becher, Chief Digital Officer of SAP, has been quoted as saying, “Big, large, glass buildings do not buy software. People do.” And people aren’t always rational. In fact, current neuroscience research reveals that 90 percent of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously.

So the story needs to have emotional impact based on the customer’s challenges and the customer’s desired outcomes. Tech companies struggle with this more than most because, like GE, they can do so many things, applying complex technology and science to develop new products or even categories of products. The result is that too often the story is about the product or technology itself and not the customer.

It Doesn’t Take a Big Budget to Tell a Good Story

Sometimes tech companies make the assumption that just because they can build something they should, and that the customer will automatically buy it if we just tell them about the details of all the amazing technology we use or deploy on their behalf, whether they understand it or not, or even want to understand it or not.

And when this happens, simplicity, clarity and alignment— the foundation of “The Art of the Story” of giving customers a reason to care, a reason to listen, a reason to engage, a reason to buy – is lost in product and tech speak.

No doubt, this is easier accomplished with a large budget and an expensive ad agency. But the reality is that it begins with an internal commitment to get your story right — from the perspective of your customer: why you do what you do, what you actually do, how you do it, and the impact you can make on their lives.

Because the only story that really matters is the one where your customers want to become part of that story with you. And for them to do that, they need to understand it and what it means for them, seen through the lens of simplicity, clarity and alignment. To steal a page from GE, this is an “Unimpossible Mission” also worth solving.

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