GE bets big on smart home light products as juggernaut executes slow turnaround

The company is pouring mega time and money into its C by GE portfolio.

General Electric Co isn’t trying to sell you a product. It’s betting big on selling a lifestyle by convincing you that your home needs a complete overhaul.

The juggernaut, which is at the start of a three-year turnaround plan, is tripling its C by GE portfolio and expanding into smart switches and accessories that make nearly anything controllable at and away from home.

Armed with a new creative campaign called "C-ing is Believing" and an on-slaught of media placements (both orchestrated by OMD), GE hopes to twist the arms of its target consumers which have so far happily relied on traditional technology and seen no reason to evolve their home into a smart one.

"At GE Lighting, we’re not just reinventing the light bulb -- we’re reinventing the productivity, wellness and security that comes with it," Rochelle Hartigan, senior leader, brand and advertising at GE Lighting, told Campaign US.

"Our C by GE brand is a big part of that. We see a major path in the smart home where lighting is such a great entry point, but also one with ongoing value – it’s affordable, it can be nearly as simple as screwing in a light bulb, you already have a place for it, yet you can program it to drive really customized value against your unique needs and routines.

"Smart lighting is really the future of the industry and our growing focus today."

GE launched a series of ads featuring Mad Men’s John Slattery. They launched during the Kentucky Derby in May and will run through December 2019. The campaign comprises TV, premium video, social, streaming audio, direct digital, programmatic and experiential.

The spots, put together by OMD Create, play into the sense of security you’d get by programing your smart lights to go on and off while you’re on vacation, for example.

Germaphobe? The products include motion sensors and auto-triggers that keep hands from switches. And a range of color lights has GE leaning into the entertainment value one can get out of the devices.

"C by GE products build on the company’s century of innovation and invention," said Hartigan on why the company is positioned to be category lead. "We’ve invented nearly every major lighting innovation, so this is a logical next area to lead into. Our deep understanding of the home and our expertise in the connectivity of things results in simple connected designs to help people thrive."

The company also leverages industry-leading partnerships to extend adoption, ease of set-up and every-day control, including offering the only Made for Google bulbs in the industry.

Its new Partner Ecosystem means that without an extra hub and in just one app, you can use the Google Home, Google Mini, Google Max or Google Home Hub to set-up and seamlessly connect and control new C by GE full-color bulbs.

Speaking to the portfolio’s marketing strategy going forward, Hartigan said: GE Lighting is working to inspire consumers to think about lighting as more than just a functional part of their home. Lighting can change a mood, influence style, and in the case of C by GE, simplify life.

"The C-ing is Believing campaign brings this to life in simple and entertaining stories to show how common situations and inconveniences around the house can be simplified with a very simple lighting solution. And, for consumers who have yet to explore smart home products or connected lighting, C by GE also helps to introduce the idea in an easy and relatable way."

GE Lighting has been working with the OMD team for several years for media strategy and placement.

In 2018, it engaged the OMD Create team in a Reveal Light campaign, and was pleased with the creative approach and campaign results. As it began planning the 2019 C by GE campaign, marketers invited the OMD Create team as well as a few other agencies to participate in an RFP process that included creative concept approaches.

The GE Lighting team was a fan of OMD Create’s engagement in the project, understanding of the strategy and creative approach.

"We often bring together several agencies to work on a campaign, and have had the good fortune to experience a high level of professionalism and cooperation among all of our agency partners when we bring together a variety of agencies on projects," she added.

The drive for smart home product sales comes as GE reveals it burned through less cash than was expected in the first quarter of 2019.

Its industrial businesses used $1.22 billion, GE leaders said in an earnings report at the end of April. Wall Street expected the giant to burn through more than double that.  

The giant is executing a three-year turnaround. It has been a slow but encouraging start to the process as GE’s power team works through pension costs, unprofitable contracts and liabilities from the 2015 acquisition of Alstom's power division.

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