Friday, March 1, 2013

How To Fix Yahoo's Brand: Take It Back To Quirky

Personality is at the heart of every brand. Personality starts at the top. And it defines the brand whether the leader lives, dies or leaves.

So many examples: Starbucks is Howard Schultz. Amazon is Jeff Bezos. Virgin is Richard Branson. Meg Whitman, eBay. Oprah. Trump.

CEO = Chief Branding Officer.

Americans love to idolize celebrities because celebrities are wish fulfillment.

Similarly brands fill a void in our lives. They help us find meaning and a kind of identity. So we crave people who represent the kind of people we want to be. They create brands. We patronize them.

Carly Fiorina was a terrible pick to lead Hewlett Packard. She is a smart person clearly. But she did not pick up the brand as the founders left it. She could not match the image or the spirit of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and their famous garage. She did not inspire.

Yahoo has the same problem right now. Marissa Mayer is clearly a killer. I would hire her to run lots of things. But not this brand.


The Yahoo brand represents quirky. That's what it is. It's not meant to be mainstream. I just looked up who founded it - Jerry Yang and David Filo. They were trying to be "uncouth" but what they ended up being was weird, in a good way. Read this from Wikipedia:
The word "yahoo" is an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle".[12] The term "hierarchical" described how the Yahoo! database was arranged in layers of subcategories. The term "oracle" was intended to mean "source of truth and wisdom", and the term "officious", rather than being related to the word's normal meaning, described the many office workers who would use the Yahoo! database while surfing from work.[13] However, Filo and Yang insist they mainly selected the name because they liked the slang definition of a "yahoo" (used by college students in David Filo's native Louisiana in the late 1980s and early 1990s to refer to an unsophisticated, rural Southerner): "rude, unsophisticated, uncouth." Filo's college girlfriend often referred to Filo as a "yahoo." This meaning derives from the name of a race of fictional beings from Gulliver's Travels.
Yahoo could have worked well with Microsoft, if Microsoft had celebrated the quirky that nerdiness is. My daughter watches that show "King of the Nerds" with the guys from "Revenge of the Nerds" on TBS - where they have the "nerd-off." It's hilarious - like "The Big Bang Theory" - but a little crazy. These are the smart kids, not the cool kids, and I like them better.

Quirky could be Yahoo. But it starts at the top.

Marissa Mayer is prissy. Prissy can't lead quirky in any convincing way.

To fix the Yahoo brand get a quirky CEO...the company is in Southern California...shouldn't be too hard to find.

Let that quirky person recruit other quirky people to get quirky content onto Yahoo, to create a haven and a home for those who are just a little bit left of normal - in a good way. Let Yahoo be the place for talented people, or wannabes, to let their "freak flag fly."