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The Coca-Cola Corporation marketing story is simple but has many layers. The latest layer is the Coca-Cola Journey — a website built to engage, entertain and build loyalty among the family of Coca-Cola brand drinkers and enthusiasts. It’s a corporate website so you can find Minute Maid orange juice, Sprite and other family members represented. Coke learned through its Facebook experience that if it could dally with drinkers and they dallied back – the result would be nice lifts in traffic and presumably consumption. So Coke now fancies itself in the content business. Ding dong, Bud TV anyone?  A business goal, one might surmise, would be to draw users back from Facebook to the new Coke Journey site. Normally, I would applaud this activity, but not if it is going to change the business. Not if it promotes non-endemic brand experiences and cross-product ones at that.

You might say Coke is using only 5 or 6 full-time employees as content creators/curators – so how does that change the business?  I say these 5 or 6 may have large reach. And a few altered cells in the DNA can be a problem.

Were I running this show, I’d continue to host sites for each unique brand. I’d add the full-time content creators to each site, but make the content specific to each brand promise. Have them support the “motivation” behind each promise. If AOL and Yahoo! can’t get content creation to run on all cylinders, why would Coke be able to? This is another story of Facebook envy. Mr. Tripodi, I think you went a little bit off-piste with this journey. Peace.   

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On Sept 7, 2011 I predicted Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo! would be out within a year. It happened in July 2012. I’ve followed and blogged about Yahoo since the beginning of What’s the Idea? and was internet raised on Yahoo.  I want it to succeed, but it has been a messy go the last 5 years. Perhaps that is changing.

According to new CEO Marissa Mayer in an article from today’s New York Times, Yahoo’s top priority is to “Make the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining.”  I smell a brand strategy.

Over the years, Yahoo has had many leaders, many missions and many goals: Become the Internet starting point for the most consumers. Become a ‘must buy’ for the most advertisers. Become an open technology platform for developers.  Become an innovative content company. A mobile leader. And and and…

“Make the world’s habits inspiring and entertaining” is a brand strategy that has ballast.  Remember it’s not the creative, it’s a strategy. Support it with three endemic and meaningful brand planks and you have the start of something – a brand plan. 

I’m not going to parse the sentence yet and frankly a brand strategy with a conjunction (“and”) is a bit of a weasel, but the exciting keywords are: world, habits, daily, inspire, entertain.  Were I a Yahoo brand manager, CMO, or VP and if someone brought me a new mobile app or content idea, I could easily use this strategy as a litmus test for approval.  It’s still broad and in need of refinement but it’s a start. As my daughter used to say “I yike it!”  Peace.

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I half disagree with Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!’s new CEO,  about Yahoo’s challenge.  When asked the question “Does Yahoo needs to define whether it is a technology company or a media company?” she responded “It’s not the right questions.  The most important thing is to give end users something valuable, inspiring and delightful that makes them want to come to Yahoo! every day.”  With that part of her answer I completely agree. But the way to get there — is to become content-focused.  In the NYT article Ms. Mayer’s quote came from, an eMarketer analyst suggested that Yahoo doesn’t own the operating system or the device and that there may not be enough room in the market for a 4th mobile platform. (I hate the “P” word, you can drive a truck through it.) Whatever he meant by platform, my take is there will certainly be enough room in the mobile world for a great content provider.

Ms. Mayer accurately feels that mobile is a growth zone for Yahoo!. If she provides content that is mobile ready, not technology ready – she will grow. Technology-enabled (other people’s technology) content is her north star. Any apps or start-ups that result are gravy.

This gem just needs a little cleaning off. 700 million people can’t be wrong. Peace!

 

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The two most important titles at any large public company are CEO and CMO.  The former is the owner of “now” and all business metrics.  The latter owns the future and the money making machinery. When these two positions are in alignment and share a challenge, things should work wonderfully.  When at odds or working cross purposes, things become interesting, exciting and pregnant with possibility. If there is respect, this is a good situation. But when the two titles are ships passing in the night, the company is either lazy, lopsided or in danger.

Operations, HR, finance, customer, sales are all vital to a company success, but they feed at the trough of leadership and product strategy.  That comes from the CEO and the CMO.  In my mind, Yahoo’s problem in the C-level suite is tied to a weakness in the marketing area.  Yahoo doesn’t have an Is-Does. Yahoo is a company of lots of Ises and lots of Doeses. The way out of the problem at this point is to find two people who can work together to solve this thing.  A tandem hire is needed. Peace!

 

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One of the most exciting yet scariest jobs in the world is probably CMO of the Magazine Publishers of America.  The MPA is an association funded by competing print and online properties that fight one another harder than the GOP and Dems at holiday time.  To say the magazine business is changing would be an understatement.  But to a great extent, it is also staying the same.  All that’s changing is what’s delivered and how.  Brilliant photo journalism is still required but now must include video.  Great writing, analysis and thought leadership still win that day – but there is a lot more competition (bloggers) and algorithmic noise.

Readers twitch more today than ever before, requiring magazine publishers to anchor them to their sites.  And advertises, the lifeblood of the magazine business, are becoming enamored of publishing and content creation. And don’t forget magazines are made from trees, not a particularly forward thinking resource. (Though probably more renewable than circuit boards.)

Herding the powerful magazine cats out of the marble hallway is a challenge. It requires someone who has more power than the cats themselves. Someone who commands respect. Probably not an ink-stained patriarch, but someone with mad vision. Someone who can see beyond the dashboard. Who the Lewis and Clark is?   If you thought being CEO of Yahoo was tough, keep your eyes on this search. Peace.

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I would not be surprised to see Yahoo sold to Jerry Yang and the Texas Pacific Group (TPG) fairly quickly. Yahoo, with lots of schmutz on its shoes, is still one of the top 5 tech brands in the world. And what is a brand but a vessel into which we poor meaning. Organized meaning. Yahoo’s fix requires an Is-Does. What a brand Is and what a brand Does.

Is it a portal?
Is it search engine?
Is it an advertising company?
Is it a web content publisher?
Is it a technology company?

Does it provide news?
Does it provide entertainment?
Does it provide organization?
Does it provide results?

Yahoo needs to retrench and make tough decisions — and that will only happen if the property is sold. A public company with lots of shareholders, Yahoo will get its Yahoo! back with new leadership, some old leadership, tough love, and a brand plan. And when I say brand plan I don’t mean a new logo, new color palette and an replacement agency for Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.  I mean an organizing principle for marketing.  A plan that inform every decision made by the company — from hiring to firing to what new mobile services to launch.

When dimensionalized through obs and strats, a brand plan creates marketing clarity. TPG doesn’t speak like this, but they know how to make it happen. It’s about time. Peace. 

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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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David Poque, a technology columnist for The New York Times, is a very interesting character.  He’s a thoughtful, important and market-moving purveyor of what’s hot and what’s not.  Sometimes his columns are a bit like a PC Mag review, but mostly they’re a fun Anthony Bourdain-like travelogue through the tasty streets of technology.

I have seen Mr. Poque on public television and he has a subtle nervousness about him on camera that doesn’t come across in print… so if I were my mother and in an advice-giving mood I suggest he stay in print.  Interestingly, Mr. Poque’s public and private personas are a tad different.  I posted about one of his columns once with a differing point of view and it really rubbed him. (I advocated not providing in-box instructions with new products to save paper.) His angry and personal comment on my blog surprised — telling me there is a bit more to Mr. Pogue than meets the eye.  (A side that might be fun to read outside of the NYT guardrails.)

My prediction:  Mr. Poque will either leave The New York Times within the next 3 years and create his own branded site or AOL will make him an offer he can’t refuse.  Yahoo could, but they have a lazy eye.  Peace.

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My father, Fred C. Poppe, built a business on engagement.  It was a word he used back in the 70s and it meant the same thing it does today — but back then he was talking about ads that were engaging. He parlayed this word (his word) into articles in Ad Age, then a few books and finally into a well-respected agency brand Poppe Tyson.  Engagement was my pops’ thing.

 

Engagement today, thanks to the web and digital marketing, goes way beyond ads and includes brands, communities of buyers and brand experiences. I’m a fan of engagement — so long as there is some selling taking place.

Readers know I write a lot about Yahoo!.  Yahoo! was like my first pretty babysitter…she taught me new things and opened my eyes to the possibilities.  These days I engage with Yahoo only during fantasy football season where, BTW, they’re doing a fine job of pursuing a content strategy. Elsewhere? I’m not finding Yahoo particularly relevant.

 

Here’s an engagement measure. Let’s call it word usage. If you could Google all the words you use over the course of a day, week, or month and quantify them, how many times would you say the word Yahoo? Engagement starts with awareness, moves to meaning, relevance, utility, usage and purchase. People aren’t talking about Yahoo any more. And if they are, it’s about money making or money losing. Yahoo has a content strategy but it’s not serious. Someone at Yahoo will write me and tell me it’s the #4 most trafficked website and makes hundreds of millions in ad revenue per quarter and they would be correct. But Yahoo is no longer the pretty or handsome babysitter – it’s more like the friend of your grandmother who babysits for a week and cooks cabbage for dinner. Yahoo is no longer engaging. And it needs to be. Peace!

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CBS. FOX and Yahoo!

CBS is a content company. Most think of it as a TV channel…with a bit of an integration problem across the country.  Different call letters, different channel numbers, not where it’s supposed to be on the dial when you move from city to city.  (See? Platform integration has always been around, it’s not just an issue for the TechCrunch crowd.)  CBS has always been dinged for catering to the older market. Well, in today’s media world the older market watches TV. Lots of it. And CBS’s quarterly numbers are quite strong, especially for local sales.   CBS owns C|Net and ZDNet, which along with other web properties, is helping the company diversify and learn about new targets, markets and categories.  CBS has radio, outdoor, book publishing, and other web properties in addition to cable and broadcast, which positions it nicely as all media moves towards the middle.  At its very core, CBS is a content play.

And in a new media world where everyone’s a publisher therefore no one’s a publish, CBS continues to crank out content people want to watch, hear, and read.  This content strategy is also the strategy of AOL and Yahoo!.  Oddly, they are all competitors.  I know AOL and Time Warner didn’t make it, but that was then.  WABC (Disney) and WNBC (Comcast) have too much baggage.  Fox has the stomach for it (read MySpace), so I predict Yahoo!, or less likely AOL, will be purchased by Mr. Murdoch and FOX.  This would be the year to do it, too.   Peace!

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