If one were to characterize Beth Comstock and her highly-respected work at GE in a single word, there’s little doubt it would be “innovator.” She is often credited with playing a key role in transforming the culture of the corporate giant to one that is more creative, accessible and innovative.
However, Beth would probably say the term that best describes her marketing role would be “instigator.” She’s conscious of how marketers must be the ones to draw attention to some of the trends and realities that are most difficult for management to accept. (In fact, she believes that this essential part of marketing—the going against the corporate grain—ironically is also what threatens the longevity of marketers most.)
Both words—innovator and instigator together serve to precisely define what’s required of today’s successful CMO. And Beth Comstock manages to juggle both concepts in a manner that simply appears to be effortless.
In her role as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of GE, Beth leads the company's organic growth and commercial innovation initiatives, as well as the sales, marketing and communications functions. She is responsible for the GE-wide business platforms of ecomagination—dedicated to reducing environmental impact with new technology, and healthymagination—focused on achieving sustainable health through innovation by lowering costs, improving quality and reaching more people.
Beth Comstock is also one of the few CMOs to hold the role twice within the same corporation. In 2003, she was named GE's first Chief Marketing Officer in more than two decades, after serving a four-year role as the company’s VP Corporate Communications. She is credited with reinvigorating marketing across the company by introducing ecomagination and the "imagination at work" brand campaign.
She then moved within GE to become President of Integrated Media at NBC, then NBC Universal, and innovated again with digital media development and distribution--including the formation of hulu.com, Peacock Equity, and the acquisition of ivillage.com.
Although Beth spent much of her early career in positions at CBS Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting and ultimately NBC, she actually graduated with a degree in biology. No doubt that has even had its benefits in conversations with GE scientists and healthymagination initiatives.
She’s been in the top marketing role at GE since 2008, during some of the more challenging years for business. Today, her largest concerns are revenue growth, brand value and continuing to insure that GE businesses can drive innovation globally and with purpose. She remains firm in her conviction that the power of the GE brand can open doors and augment sales.
And as the multinational giant sets its sights on tackling two of the world’s largest challenges—the environment and health—we have no doubt that Beth Comstock will continue to innovate and instigate.