Thursday, August 27, 2009

No yodelling: Yahoo plans to show or tell?

First, Yahoo CEO Carol Barth tells analysts that she needs to spend to protect the brand. Then new Chief Marketing Officer Elisa Steele says a new slogan might be something like "Yahoo, your home on the web' (here). Now, rumors are that what Yahoo learned in the Microsoft deal is to spend like a drunken sailor on advertising (here).

Starting in September, we can expect a media blitz on why you should make Yahoo your home on the web, which is interesting for a few reasons:

1. According to this article (on Yahoo, nonetheless), Yahoo's prospective new slogan and reference to 'the Web' seem, I don't know, dated? If they were hip squares, maybe they'd go with 'Yahoo: your pillow in da' cloudz'.

2. But seriously, speaking of vaporous ideas, the notion that Yahoo wants to be the home base for our online lives is sweet. Unfortunately for Yahoo, we're not currently homeless online. We have many homes...all LinkedIn, Twittified, and FriendFeeded...inhabited by our online relationships. Yahoo can be a part of that...a mail account or a forum in one of Yahoo's channels...but Yahoo is a tool. And a hammer does not a home make.

3. Which leads me to tools (no, not the kind on VH1's Tool Academy). If Yahoo wants to elevate the brand, or reposition it, I'd suggest investing in creating something useful, usable, and Google continuously does (tried Google Reader?), or even, ahem, Microsoft (Office 2010 anyone?).

For a company like Yahoo, advertising should generate awareness of great new functions...the functions will take care of the positioning through the user other words, design the right functions, and you've designed the Brand Experience.

I have to confess, I still have MyYahoo set as my browser home page. Yahoo has a wonderful history of creating things, like My Yahoo, that work. They've lost their way in middle age, though, trying to be so many things but special at nothing. They haven't stayed with the pack.

So here's to hoping that any advertising investment is actually based on articulating wonderful new tools that redefine the My Yahoo brand experience. Tools that actually help people in a manner that reflects the user's centrality in the brand experience. Rather than telling me your mine, make yourself mine.

The alternative would be trying to re-position via advertising alone...that's not merely a 'cost that is in the system', it's a pretty traditional approach. And that looks alot like the whimsical road they've been down before: fun ad, unmet functional expectation.

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