Inside General Electric’s New Slogan, ‘Building a World That Works’

Founded in 1892 with a line of incandescent electric lamps for the new era of energy, General Electric has gone through countless transformations as the technological and industrial needs of Americans have changed over the last 128 years.

While it doesn’t look much like the company that Thomas Edison created, it’s still powering fundamental parts of life not just in the United States, but all around the world.

In a campaign that debuted over the weekend, General Electric unveiled a new tagline that better reflects the activities that the conglomerate’s employees carry out globally, 24 hours per day: “Building a world that works.”

“We, today, are a company made up of four very large industrial businesses: aviation, renewable energy, gas power and healthcare,” said GE CMO Linda Boff. “So this idea of ‘building a world that works’ is so resonant.”

Beginning in 1979, GE built its marketing around a singular purpose line: “We bring good things to life.” That slogan carried the company through the two-decades-long tenure of the late Jack Welch, the chief executive who defined GE for the modern era.

Jeff Immelt took over as CEO in 2001, aiming to reinvest in research and development, leading the company to adopt a new slogan to fit the new strategy: “Imagination at work.”

After nearly two decades, and with new leadership again at the helm (Lawrence Culp was hired in 2018 as the first GE CEO from outside the company), GE is releasing a tagline that aims to encompass the purpose and reach of its businesses—and people—that carry out its many behind-the-scenes industrial roles.

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A new 60-second spot introducing the slogan aired for the first time during the U.S. Open women’s tennis championships this weekend, and the brand took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times.

Originally planned to debut at the 2020 Olympics, Covid-19 delayed the launch by a couple months. But Boff said the spirit of the campaign remained largely unchanged—in fact, honoring the people who keep the world working became an even more prescient message in light of the pandemic.

The brand is also launching a 24-hour social media activation, created by VaynerMedia, to give viewers a closer look at the work that GE does—from testing jet engines in California to creating more efficient digital solutions for manufacturing plants in Saudi Arabia and servicing wind turbines in Kenya.

Beginning at 11 a.m. E.T. today, the brand’s social media accounts will stream 24 hours of on-the-ground footage at 24 different locations worldwide, created by employees at each of those locations.

“Each story is the employee bringing to life what it is they do,” Boff said. “So they’re both your tour guide and your content creator.”

The idea for the social activation was born out of a conversation about the vital nature of GE’s work, said Boff. The services that the company provides—healthcare, aviation, energy—are necessary to keep things running night and day.

Boff wanted to show the world “24 hours of GE,” but from the perspective of those doing the work.

“It comes back to that Edisonian idea of, ‘What does the world need?’” said Boff, referring to Edison’s oft-quoted strategy of inventing to fill everyday needs. “To be able to put our people front and center—that’s a goosebump moment for me.”

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