Triggered by wide-ranging challenges and ambitions, General Electric (GE) engaged Sub Rosa to explore and identify the brand’s internal culture and process of innovation. Sub Rosa’s insights ultimately led to its creation of GE’s Garages, a participatory global program that showcases GE’s passion for invention at scale and leadership in advanced manufacturing for the digital age. Touching internal and external audiences and engaging new partners, GE’s Garages has been cited as a powerful change agent, going beyond marketing to deliver a new understanding of not only what GE makes, but of what it fundamentally does in the world.
GE initially turned to Sub Rosa to help uncover how innovation is born or thwarted inside GE, and how new approaches and attitudes towards advanced manufacturing and collaboration might impact the world and GE’s culture and business concerns in the years ahead. The aim of this far-reaching assignment was to create a point of view that exhibited GE’s position on innovation, leadership and advanced manufacturing both internally and to various public and private sector audiences around the world. The range of potential impacts included talent recruiting and retention, internal systems and organizational approaches, nomenclature, partnerships, and R&D.
In order to identify opportunities, the first challenge was to understand the key dynamics at play within the company’s business units and corporate operations from the most senior executive levels and research centers to the factory floors. This was accomplished through an immersive discovery process, including site embeds, workshops, and cross-functional activities involving a wide array of internal and external participants. The key revelation elicited was not only that GE is leading the industry in development and construction of complex machinery and software, but that each step of its processes is instigated by a drive to invent and build scalable solutions to the world’s most important problems, through human interaction and hands-on production. This learning informed Sub Rosa’s strategy, which identified an opportunity to bring this fundamental truth to life in an engaging, participatory environment that could be adapted to a wide range of environments and participants.
In order to convey GE’s approach to collaboration and innovation to internal and external audiences on a global scale, Sub Rosa conceived, designed and activated GE Garages, a dynamic platform delivering a mix of education, hands-on workshops, and public works projects aligned with the growing consumer interest in technology and advanced manufacturing. The program maintains a sharp focus on community engagement, while continuing to scale as a global communications platform. True to the insights concerning the inventive, hands-on core of the brand, GE’s Garages communicates the company’s mission in a tangible manner that delivered meaningful experiences, conversations, memories, and relationships for its participants.
While the original metrics for success (such as insight into GE’s richest opportunities for innovation, and the quality of participant engagement across internal and external audiences on that topic) were all exceeded, perhaps the most powerful result of the program has been the ability for the Garages platform to scale and evolve globally. Since launching at SXSW in 2012, GE’s Garages has successfully activated with private and public sector partners and audiences in key markets throughout the Americas, Africa, Europe, and the middle East, representing one of the most novel and enduring brand platforms of its kind. A new global positioning campaign, GE Works, was also informed by these efforts, ultimately underpinning the development of global advertising, marketing, and internal messaging and organizational efforts to exemplify this commitment.
The Garages invite everyone to be part of the resurgence of manufacturing and to be hands-on with the spirit of invention that runs throughout GE. Sebastien Duchamp, Digital Communications Director for GE