OWEN: THE NEW FACE AND BRAND OF A TRANSFORMED COMPANY
So for the past year I’ve been an avid fan of GE’s TV ads. The self-deprecating TV campaign, bluntly titled "What's the Matter With Owen?", is designed to reinforce GE's position as a digital-industrial company—and recruit young people to join the company as industrial Internet developers. Within each spot, copy reads, "GE. The digital company. That's also an industrial company." By the way, the YouTube ads include links to GE's jobs section. Very clever indeed.
The TV ads focus on Owen, a techy-looking software developer who’s constantly having to explain to family, extended family, friends, and friends of friends that GE is more than just a stodgy industrial company that builds big machines. He’s part of GE’s new and exciting group that helps those big machines talk to each other via Predix, a cloud-based operating system for the Industrial Internet.
ADAPTING TO CHANGE TO STAY IN THE GAME
GE personifies what many companies, including ours, have struggled with. Companies that have organically morphed over the years and expanded way beyond their initial core of services or product portfolio. While they still retain that core focus, they now do so much more—essentially adapting to the new digital world and the pressures and demands it puts on them.
So how do you encapsulate that into a branding message? Well, for the past year GE has been re-branding itself as a digital industrial company—meaning that the company straddles two hugely divergent market spaces. But since just about every facet of business today has been impacted by the Internet and digital technologies, GE—to remain competitive—has taken to casting itself as being adaptive to new technologies and being relevant and “with the times.” After all, there’s a whole new generation joining the workforce ranks that has not experienced a non-digital world. This is a huge dynamic switch for the industrial world, and it’s one GE is addressing with their digital-industrial ads. So it’s no wonder that GE launched their TV campaign on late-night comedy shows, designed to recruit young professionals and position itself as a digital-industrial company. Again, very clever indeed.
BUILDING A NEW IMAGE & BEING UNDERSTOOD
The coined “digital-industrial” label simplifies this monumental industry transformation where industrial converges with digital—with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected. There’s so much behind-the-scenes transformation complexity, but by simply pairing two common and well-defined words—“digital-industrial”—the complexity gets stripped away and a new term enters the vernacular of industry.
However, simplifying the branding message is not the end game. The message has to be understood and embraced, and that can only happen through persistent awareness building. GE’s TV campaign includes multiple stories about the company’s transformation as a digital-industrial innovator.
So we see Owen’s friends receiving his news with confusion. They can’t quite reconcile the old industrial-giant image of GE with coding—their point of reference via personal experiences in their digital world.
And then, with a dismissive reaction to Owen's GE job announcement because they’re not seeing the “cool factor” in coding that helps machines talk to each other. After Owen announces: “I got a job. I’ll be programming at GE,” his friend steals the spotlight with his own job announcement at a cool web company, Zazzies.
AESBUS...WE'RE ALSO NOT NEW
Aesbus’ company history is similar to GE’s story of business and technology adaptation. Aesbus started in 1989 as a service provider of printed technical documentation primarily for computer manufacturers. That was our core competency through the 1990’s. Remember the Pentium micro-processor? Yes, that was the rage. And computers came in big boxes, along with the usual hefty set of user manuals.
With the meteoric growth of Internet, PC innovation, mobile device proliferation, new media advancements, and content authoring technologies—customer experience expectations shifted and influenced our business strategies and service offerings. These change drivers impacted the design and delivery of content.
For those of us that design, create and manage content, “media convergence” is the transformative label for our adaptability to the new media platforms that our customers and their customers expect and require for delivery of content about their products or services. The word “media” in the mass communication world denotes different forms of content delivery, and “convergence” indicates the blurred mashup and overlap of different media forms. Aesbus has confronted numerous challenges and levels of complexity in the decades-long transformation from printed to digital content delivery solutions.
Our industry—content development—has its legion of Owen-like developers. In today’s world of media convergence, information developers are undertaking Customer Experience (CX) designer or specialist roles, which require a holistic set of skills from design, application development, and communication. Convergent tool solutions address the challenges of integrating documentation with training, product support, marketing, sales, and customer service.
A DIGITAL WORLD OF CONTENT
This shift has required information developers to think about producing content in different media formats (interactive content) and styles (bite size) pieces that can be consumed as the consumer desires, and, in some cases, in a more conversational tone and community-expanding style. Social media is fast becoming the new front-line of customer service. Companies have to re-think their marketplace in terms of customer communities.
Customer experience continues to dramatically change the role and the value of product documentation professionals. An increasing number of information developers are becoming members of broad, cross-functional teams responsible for comprehensive user experiences. Content design and development teams are no longer isolated as they work closely with marketers, product engineers, and others to produce consistent and coherent experiences across a customer journey.
NEW FOCUS. NEW APPROACHES.
The focus today is on comprehensive approaches to designing for mobile, developing mobile products and services to support the ever increasing number of mobile users in the business world. As one of the big communication trends, managing the mobile paradigm means developing innovative approaches that require collaboration between traditional R&D, tech pubs, marketing, and customer support organizations as well as the creation of new forms of marketing and product/services support via social media.
The new legion of Owen-like content developers require skill sets that will result in a shift towards being business problem solvers and collaborating effectively with professionals from a whole range of disciplines.
User experience, continuous mobility, content creation and production as a brand asset, social media, and globalization are all embedded in Aesbus’ branding message: Media Convergence.
So when your friend announces "I got a job. I'll be building great Customer Experience solutions at Aesbus."—there will be some excitement and understanding.