GE CMO Linda Boff Says Pandemic Will Increase Marketer Agility

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Linda Boff is among the most recognized marketing leaders in the world. She has seen a lot in her 16 years at GE, of which she has spent the past five years as chief marketing and communications officer. But nothing compares to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everything changed,” she says on the latest episode of the AdExchanger Talks podcast. “We are a company that proudly manufactures and services jet engines, and the world changed on a dime.”

Nevertheless, Boff sees the occasional silver lining. One is shortened planning cycles as marketers are forced to react to immediate events and shifting consumer behaviors. The upfront negotiations are the most visible example of a general slowness that hurts campaign effectiveness and that may go away in 2020.

“Busting up this inflexibility that I think has hamstrung a lot of us would be a good outcome, in my view,” she says. “I love what I think is going to be the speed of change, the agility. Not the ‘set it and forget it’ but how do we lean into these moments. Things are changing not weekly, not daily, sometimes not even hourly. They’re just changing all the time.”

Bonus advice for young people struggling during this time: “I think it is really hard to be a young person right now working. You’re robbed of the office environment. I’m OK with that. I have plenty of friends. But as you’re coming up, that’s much harder. As a result, you have to lean in and look for those opportunities. It is the rare person who would say ‘no’ to a 10- or 15-minute virtual coffee.”

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