Image: GE/Thrillist
GE Hot Sauce
GE Hot Sauce
GE Hot Sauce
GE Hot Sauce
GE Hot Sauce

Will GE's Saucy Campaign Attract Hottest New Hires?

April 25, 2016
General Electric wants the best and brightest young engineers to know the company manufactures a lot more than just light bulbs, like jet engines, turbine tech --- and hot sauce?

General Electric Co. is overhauling its business, moving away from finance toward big machines such as gas turbines and jet engines. Now the industrial behemoth has a new product to promote its engineering prowess: hot sauce.

A limited run of the tongue-scorching condiment, called 1032 Kelvin, created with the help of High River Sauces, was designed to drum up interest in GE’s advanced materials that can withstand high temperatures. The sauce, sporting packaging made of the silicon carbide used in jet engines, went on sale Monday on Thrillist’s website.

GE is selling 1,000 bottles of a hot sauce packaged in silicone carbide and ceramic matrix composites.
Image: GE/Thrillist

Thrillist says the new sauce "will be based on one of the world’s most unforgiving peppers, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion." It can reach more than 2 million Scoville units, the scale for measuring a pepper's spiciness. The hottest is the Carolina Reaper.

It’s the latest in a series of off-kilter marketing efforts by GE to subvert its image as a boring old conglomerate and appeal to a younger generation of engineers.

“They’re intentionally doing a set of things that is inconsistent with the image that younger people have of GE,” said Julie Hennessy, a marketing professor as Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “They’re trying to re-frame what their business is.”

There’s a serious purpose behind the hype: communicating GE’s dramatic transformation to potential new hires, business partners and shareholders. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt is selling finance and consumer-focused businesses, while also building a software division to enhance the usefulness of the industrial equipment at GE’s heart. He’s even moving the company to Boston, where he says it’ll be easier to hire software engineers than in Fairfield, Connecticut.

While the marketing approach doesn’t cost much, it may backfire if GE turns off the very audience of digitally savvy hipsters and geeks it’s trying to attract.

“If you try too hard to be cool or hip, you absolutely aren’t,” Hennessy said.

GE's AETD jet engine
Image: GE

GE Comic Books

The company has sponsored “Tonight Show” segments, produced sci-fi podcasts and made GE-branded comic books. It’s all over social media. With Thrillist, it previously sold a line of futuristic silver sneakers designed by luxury footwear maker Android Homme to celebrate GE’s contribution to the moon boots used by NASA astronauts. And a television ad campaign is supposed to help the company compete for Silicon Valley talent against the likes of Google and Facebook.

“We want to be part of that zeitgeist,” said Linda Boff, GE’s chief marketing officer. “How do we stay relevant, how do we stay contemporary, how do we reach new audiences?”

The company found success with a run of TV commercials focused on GE’s growing software business. Known internally as the “Owen” ads, they feature a nerdy-but-hip young man who explains to his befuddled friends and family that he’s going to work at GE -- to write code rather than work in a factory.

Since the campaign started late last year, the number of inquiries from prospective new hires to GE’s digital division has increased eightfold, Boff said.

“We are in a fierce hunt for talent,” she said.

Check back soon on for a chance to win your very own bottle of 1032 Kelvin. Are you brave (and/or stupid) enough to try it?