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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yahoo: Money for Nothing

You have to hand it to the folks at Yahoo. No matter how many chances they're given, they keep tripping over themselves. I've been watching Yahoo ever since they were knee-high to a modem. In that time, they've gone from the powerhouse of search engines to the Jerry Lewis of the internet.

It's companies like Kodak and Yahoo that make me such a strong believer in the economy of the United States. Where else could major, publicly-held institutions keep failing year after year and still bluff the public into investing even more millions into their eventual demise?

Yahoo is the typical modern American tragedy: A first mover in a category which it dominated for years, Yahoo watched in dismay as Google ate its lunch in record time. Under what could only be called the denial-driven dictatorship of Jerry Yang, Yahoo coughed up any and all dominance it once held by simply refusing to brand itself. Nobody knew why they should stay loyal to Yahoo, so nobody bothered to.

Nobody was quite as confused about Yahoo's brand as Terry Semel, the showbiz CEO who took over Yang's mission of driving the company into the ground. For some reason (speculated in past issues of this blog), Semel had visions of Yahoo becoming the center of internet entertainment. It was a grand, totally naive dream, however, that failed every single opportunity given to it. In the end, Semel left Yahoo users even more confused, and its shareholders even more destitute.

With Yang finally being given his walking papers, Carol Bartz assumed command of Yahoo's sinking ship. Suddenly, new hope abounded. Maybe, just maybe, Bartz could right the brand that never was. Unfortunately, the hope sank quickly as it became apparent that Bartz's dog and pony show was actually the same old song and dance. Even a joint program with Microsoft did little to enthuse anyone; two high-awareness non-brands joining together did nothing to raise the hopes -- or stock prices -- of either one.

Now comes word that Yahoo is launching a $100 million ad campaign -- glaringly mislabeled as a "re-branding" -- which further illustrates its incompetence:



Once again, the adage proves true: When you try to be something to everyone, you end up being nothing to anyone. Once again, by not articulating what Yahoo is, or why it should be "perceived as the only solution to its prospects' problems," Yahoo is spending millions to actually say nothing at all.

Am I missing something here? Does anything in these ads say anything at all to you about why you should use Yahoo? Or how Yahoo offers you something you can't find anywhere else? Is anyone at Yahoo aware that they could run these ads in Braille and they'd have the same effect?

A lot of people maintain I'm a harsh guy. I'm not a harsh guy. I'm just a guy who hates to see mediocrity and failure being passed off as professional success. I call 'em as I see 'em. And from what I see, Yahoo's future is looking bleaker by the minute.

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