GE CMO Linda Boff on why marketers are the ‘soul’ of the business

The GE CMO wants marketers to realise they are the “soul of the company” and find a way to work without fear, despite the challenging circumstances.

GE CMO Linda Boff has issued a rallying call for storytelling in marketing as the industry begins to consider its role in a post-pandemic world, while also remembering some of the hard lessons learnt through an era of vulnerability.

Speaking during the Festival of Marketing (9 October), Boff said that in a world where marketers can be saturated with data, it is important to hone an appreciation for the “magic of the story, the magic of the narrative”.

Boff said that the Festival of Marketing was well named, and not just as a celebration of the industry.

“It’s a festival because marketers are truly the soul of the company. I genuinely believe that we put our hands on the company bible, and our pledge is to keep that flame, that DNA, alive,” she said

“The magic of any company’s story is one that the marketer is there to find, to sometimes dig out, sometimes unleash, and the best data in the world ain’t gonna get you there. Igniting passion remains vital to effective marketing.”

Fear doesn’t create great marketing. It creates safe marketing.

Linda Boff, GE

Reflecting on the changes that have had such an impact on all elements of business in 2020, Boff said political and social sensitivities have caused elements of fear to creep into marketing.

“No doubt some of it is warranted, but there is a way to successfully and appropriately market, and do it without fear,” she said. “Fear doesn’t create great marketing. It creates safe marketing.”

But she acknowledged that vulnerability, based on unfairness in society, has become an important factor in marketing. Boff believes that the response to that unfairness, coupled with the way the marketing sector has become more agile in difficult times, has created a sense of optimism.

“I really hope we don’t go back to being clumsy, to having so many resources at hand because budgets are restored, that we feel as though we can have seven production crews. That I think would be a slide backwards. We have seen a better way,” she said.

“There’s a scrappier way, a quicker way, a different way to think things through. And I would love to see that retained.”

Linda Boff was speaking at the Festival of Marketing. Her session, as well as the rest of the agenda, is available to watch on-demand for those with a digital pass. To buy a pass visit