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Yahoo has once again gone public with its strategy; this time Marissa Mayer announced it at a presentation to advertising buyers in NYC.  (I once accused Yahoo of having a lazy eye and must admit my view hasn’t changed too much, but I still believe Ms. Mayer is the right person for the job.  In a previous blog post I noted she may be on to something with a the germ of a brand idea, but yesterday may have dissuaded me.)

Yahoo needs to step up its original content game. And yesterday she acknowledged “premium content” as one leg of the stool.  The other two legs being: innovation and performance. I’ve heard innovation before – What technology company doesn’t use that one? –but performance is new. But you can also drive a truck through it.  At least she didn’t hang a brand plank on advertising. Last time out she talked about mobile, but I guess that falls under innovation. 

Every house has a foundation.  Every company needs a business strategy and a brand strategy. What I’ve found out in my years as a planner and consultant is that creating the brand strategy first is the best way to build a business strategy — because it’s built on customers and endemic business value.  There I’ve said it. Come get me Harvard Business Schoolies.

Yahoo is making money. Diddling around with mobile.  Promoting Ms. Mayers in lovely ways. But it still does not have a brand strategy. Ask Gareth Kay. Search this site for all posts on Yahoo if you would like to see the history of missteps.  Yahoo is pulling its nose up (aviation metaphor)…it just needs more time and a tight brand plan. Peace.

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Coca-Cola sells the equivalent of a billion bottle of Coke annually in China so they know a little bit about the world’s fastest growing consumer market. That said, their marketers will be put to the test if the purchase of Beijing juice maker China Huiyuan Juice Company goes through. (For the record, this is stroke of genius by Coca-Cola. Huiyuan is already outselling the category by 19%.)
 
Before going in and changing the package design and marketing messaging, I’d suggest living with what they have now for a few months and do a deep dive on consumer attitudes and juice proclivities. I would research the kids, parents and especially the elders.  We like to say here in the states that “change is good,” but with the amount of change China is undergoing having a big multinational swoop in and alter a leading beverage brand will require finesse. Leave the cowboys at home Coke, do this one right (like Kraft Foods did with Oreos,) and you will have a Harvard Business School case of which you can be proud.
 

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Wired Magazine’s Chris Anderson published a book called “The Long Tail” which has been the pop marketing book of the last two years. It states that the internet allows people more product and service choices and therefore dilutes the market power of master brands. A new article published by Anita Elberse, marketing professor at Harvard b-school suggests otherwise (tinyurl.com/3rg5gp). Says Ms. Elberse, the internet helps magnify those with buzz and the market leaders.
 
A new book called “Buying In” written by Rob Walker, a NY Times Magazine reporter and marketing blogger, addresses the influence brands have over consumers. It seems his view lies somewhere in the middle of these two theories.
 
Likes and dislikes when it comes to products and services, defy rules. I loved strawberry shortcake as a kid until I ate so much I got sick to my stomach. Raw clams were disgusting to me until I saw the rapture on my uncle’s face as he slurped one down. I knew the first time I heard “Lazy Eye” by the Silversun Pickups, that they were a special band, yet did not like Rage Against the Machine until I saw them live. Now they are a favorite. This stuff defies theory.
 
Marketing is all about the art, the time and place, the referring agent and guts. The guts of the marketer and the gut feeling of the consumer. If you have an eye and an ear for it, you win. If you don’t, you write theory.

 

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I can’t for the life of me figure out Hewlett-Packard. When you think they make a good move, it doesn’t work. When you think they make a bad move, earnings rise. You read about new marketing focus, bad press follows. You read about board tumult and unrest at the top, earnings kick butt.
 
This company is an enigma. Never a Carly Fiorina fan, and I actually did call the downturn under part of her watch, I must admit I may not have given her credit she deserved for long-term planning. Today, 70% of HP’s revenue comes from outside the U.S. – the source of a good part of today’s positive earnings report — which I am going to attribute to the Compaq purchase she engineered. 
 
HP is doing well in printers, brilliantly in computers (who knew?) and, I suspect, well in services. It’s going to take a Harvard B School case study for me to figure out this company, but at the moment I’m digging their staying power and blocking and tackling.
 

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