What do apple pie, baseball, and GE all have in common? They’re all deeply connected to our American identity. From Thomas Edison to Ronald Reagan, few brands have had as much in common with American history as GE Appliances.
If Electrolux's purchase of GE Appliance passes regulatory approval the iconic American brand won't be going anywhere, although it will have a Swedish parent company.
We’ve already addressed some of the potential future outcomes of the acquisition, so let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit GE growth as an appliance titan through some of the company's best known advertisements.
The General Electric Company itself was originally formed as the result of another industry-changing tie-up: For the sake of efficiency and mutual access to patents, Thomas Edison's eponymous Edison General Electric Company merged with competitor Thomas-Houston Company in 1892. From that time forward, industrial and scientific development became the hallmark of the organization, including advances in electric lighting, transportation, and—of course—electric appliances.
GE’s advertising promoted both specific products as well as scientific innovation and company philosophy. Ads might spend as much time talking about the company's reputation as a scientific and engineering innovator as it would spend detailing the latest appliance trade-in bargain or futuristic kitchen gadget.
Some of the most important products of the pre-war era included the electric toaster, and the Monitor Top refrigerator. As the first affordable refrigerator, it brought food preservation to the masses, forever changing the way Americans ate.
While it may be hard to imagine the link between a washing machine and the American presidency, that’s what happened with GE and Ronald Reagan. Hired in 1954 to host the General Electric Theater, Reagan’s introductory speeches at the beginning of each broadcast brought new celebrity power to the company’s image during the Cold War era.
This became a mutually beneficial partnership, leading to Reagan’s appointment as a GE “goodwill ambassador” in the 1950s, and burnishing the future politician's image for a generation of Americans. As of 2010, GE even partnered with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to award an annual Ronald Reagan scholarship.
In 1979, GE created a new tagline—We Bring Good Things to Life—that identified the company's broad reach, from finance to medical equipment, jet engines to nuclear reactors. Still, most consumers identified the company with its consumer goods—especially home appliances. In this typical ad from the era, be sure to watch out for clock radios, hair dryers, cameras, and even a young Mark Linn-Baker before Perfect Strangers. It's enough to make you do the Dance of Joy.
Most recently, Americans heard about a fictionalized version of GE's Appliance division through 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy. As head of Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming, the character—played by Alec Baldwin—even sang the virtues of the GE Advantium's patented Trivection cooking technology.
Of course, the real GE was trying to promote a different story: As touted in this commercial made for the 2012 Super Bowl, GE invested $1 billion in its Appliance Park facility, which first opened in the 1950s. It meant more American jobs, and over 500 new products.
After over 100 years of home appliance history, it's easy to see why Electrolux wanted to acquire the GE brand. Even if it's under new ownership, it's likely we'll be seeing more of the familiar "meatball" logo in the future.
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