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Yahoo 2016.

A couple of decades ago when the Internet was young I would go to Yahoo daily and check out the list of new websites publishing that day.  Every new website was listed on Yahoo (I can’t remember where) and as the number grew they were indexed by category. It was a raw way of seeing what was new on the web. Very wild west.

Then Yahoo became more of a portal, with a home page, news and other information utilities, e.g,. weather, stocks, etc.  Where Yahoo and Google diverged was in content.  Google kept to search and developed a wonderful advertising model while Yahoo meandered into news, entertainment, video and the like. Yahoo, in other words, tried to be an online newspaper, radio station, TV network and perhaps the world first amalgam of those things. Como se expensive? Advertising revenue grew and the company liked being in the content business but the business model was muddy. Not extensible. And expensive. What did Google do? Cleaner search and smarter ads.

Any hedge find worth its salt will tell you to focus. They look at trends and business fundies then pare, pare pare.  Starboard Value, pushing for dissolution of the Yahoo board, is no different. Starboard is the “stick” that will probably help Yahoo live on. I would counsel them, however, to bring in a brand strategist who can provide some depth to the decision they make. Yahoo is a powerful brand. It owns much space in the minds of consumers.  Don’t toss out that value, use it.





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Carol Bartz was let go yesterday and not a moment too soon.  A smart lady out of her element – she, a good enterprise tech blocker and tackler – Ms. Bartz in the near term will be replaced by an army of herself.  An army of bankers and financial advisors that will chase the numbers — chase and plot the lines of business.  An army that will evaluate global growth, sales, competitors whiles using Wall Street formulas to predict market capitalization.  Not one Carol, 20 Carols.  And while this is happening the call will go out to high level search firms and tech recruiters.  The board of directors, headed by adman Roy Bostock, will do some trail covering and soul searching and become a story in and of itself. This is how we do-oo it.

But what needs to be done here, as well, is a brand audit and a brand plan. A brand plan is an operating principle guided by consumer needs…delivered in the form of the product experience, marketing and messaging. People think a brand plan is about messaging alone and they are wrong.   

All the financial work the numbers consultants will do is important. The CEO hire is important, but what Yahoo IS and what Yahoo DOES (for consumers) is more important. This is called the Is-Does.  Right now Yahoo IS a Portal. And what it DOES is serve web pages.  Yahoo wants to be an innovative content company, but hasn’t delivered.  If consumers can’t pass the Is-Does test, it’s a fail.  Right now Yahoo’s Is is weak. And the Does doesn’t.

My prediction:  in 12 months there will be a new CEO, a new logo, a new campaign (Yahoo would be smart to keep ad shop Goodby), and no brand plan.  Brand diaspora, brand diffusion is what kills great companies.  Stop the madness. Peace!

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