G.E. product groups include a diverse range from aviation and wind turbines to healthcare and trains. Perhaps the most well-known product group is the appliance division. Over a century ago, they started with the electric toaster and electric range, and they were the first to introduce the electric washing machine. Consumers most readily identify G.E. through their appliance division. So why would G.E. want to sell it and shift away from that identity?
Due to the huge growth of its financial arm, G.E.’s appliance division now only constitutes six percent of the company’s more than $146 billion in revenue. The appliance division helped grow the company, but G.E. came to the realization that it needs to let it go.
Ronn Torossian understands the need for companies to sometimes shift identities. He also understands that this type of shift needs a good PR strategy. When a product or division is heavily identified with a brand, a bad or non-existent PR campaign can ruin an identity shift.
The 2008 financial crisis impacted G.E. profoundly. Jeffrey R. Immelt, G.E CEO, wants to concentrate on the core industrial businesses. The appliance division was once considered a core business, but not any longer. This shift away from appliances needs a great PR strategy so that it highlights the strengths of the shift and does not alienate consumers.
For any identity shift PR campaign, entrepreneurs use SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to focus on effective targets. This is a key piece in strategic PR planning and positional capabilities identification. A good plan includes positional statements, spokesperson management, and finding strategic partnerships and co-branding opportunities,
In the case of G.E., although they are looking to divest itself of the appliance division, they have formed a strategic partnership with a potential buyer. G.E. and Quirky, a five-year-old company who uses crowdsourcing to generate ideas for products, are working together to develop new products. G.E.’s shift toward its industrial core includes joint ventures with respected companies such as Alstom.
G.E. will take over their gas and steam turbine business and expand G.E’s stake in the power industry. By carefully crafting the identity shift message, a company can leverage the brand and increase value.