Redefining Yahoo: Will $100 million in marketing do the trick?

Redefining Yahoo: Will $100 million in marketing do the trick?

Summary: Yahoo wants you to know that its new "It's You" campaign is all about customizing the experiences of users and advertisers to make each more relevant to the other. But the real campaign behind it all is Yahoo's attempt to redefine itself.

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On the surface, Yahoo's new "It's You" campaign is supposed to be focused on customizing the experiences of users and advertisers to make them more relevant to each other.

But don't be fooled, though. This campaign is less about you and more about Yahoo and its attempt to redefine itself.

CEO Carol Bartz brought an entourage of execs from Silicon Valley to New York City for a big-city press conference at the Nasdaq headquarters in Times Square to announce the $100 million multi-channel marketing and product campaign. (Techmeme) They laid out the campaign, talked about strategy, fielded some questions and, in typical Bartz fashion, even managed to get a bit feisty with the reporters who questioned the company's moves - and motives.

"The focus of the company is really to engage and personalize Yahoo for customers," Bartz said, highlighting its 581 million users and emphasizing that 76 percent of Internet users in the U.S. use Yahoo in some way. "We're ready to deliver on this."

The global campaign - a first for Yahoo - is anchored by a recently refreshed Yahoo homepage, which gives users the freedom to embed favorite sites from across the Web, even non-Yahoo sites. Beginning as a marketing effort that will gradually shift over 15 months toward a focus on the company's products, the campaign will launch in 10 countries -- Brazil, Canada, France, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, the U.S. and the U.K. -- and aims to engage users with tighter integration of internal and external sites and a more useful, relevant experience.

Also see: A Yahoo face-lift: New look and feel for Mobile, Mail, Messenger and Search

A B2B campaign rounds out the marketing and product push.

"This is a highly-evolved concept," Bartz said, stressing coordination and integration across Yahoo sites. "How can you organize your life and have it your way?"

In turn, Yahoo plans to use its large scale to offer what Bartz called "micro-insights" about consumers to advertisers, to help them offer more relevant, and thus effective, advertisements to users.

Through surveys, the company has discovered that consumers actively seek out relevant advertisements. "We're really delivering an enterprise system to our ad partners so they can get their jobs done," Bartz said. "Consumers want good advertisers. It's a marriage made in heaven."

Still, the presentation was clearly about repositioning the Yahoo brand.

Bartz discussed how Yahoo's search will be integrated with the campaign, exchanging "worthless tons of results" for a "different experience." Unprompted, Bartz declared, "It's not Bing, it's Yahoo search."

But reporters had questions - specifically, whether the company was obsessed with pointing out how it's different from Google or Microsoft. Almost on cue, Bartz lashed out at the New York and Silicon Valley press for its skepticism about the company's moves.

"When you get out of New York City and Silicon Valley, people love Yahoo," Bartz said. "Why are you cynical about us? Get cynical about frickin' Google. Just leave us alone."

Also see: Bartz to Yahoo shareholders: Change is coming; We're not Google

Yahoo's search strategy: We're not fighting "the megawatt war"

Google comparisons dogged Bartz, though, prompting her to acknowledge that the company had "put a cloud over its head" in the past.

Yahoo and Google are different companies that are in different businesses, she said. "They aren't us and we aren't them... Google is maniacal about running an algorithm. We're maniacal about being relevant and personal."

So, if not Google, which companies would Bartz place on Yahoo's competitive landscape? The closest one, she said, is really AOL. "Managing the Web from one place is really the core of our product focus," Bartz said. "In reality, we are our own comparison."

Through still advertisements and videos, the company plans to reinforce a message that's happy and joyous, colorful and creative, fun and familiar. Expect to see real people, too - no makeup, no actors. And expect to hear some of these slogans, too:

  • The Internet is under new management. Yours.
  • Now the Internet has a personality. Yours.
  • There's a new master of the digital universe. You.
  • This time it's personal
  • Totally you.

"Our campaign is multichannel...but it's absolutely grounded in the digital discipline," said Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer Elissa Steele.

Bartz also played coy on rumors that Yahoo was shopping around Zimbra, an open source e-mail company whose technology powers Yahoo Mail.

"Things that might have been a good idea years ago we're revisiting," Bartz said. "Where it makes sense to sell, we will."

Still, Steele said the success of the campaign will depend on whether it can draw new customers and keep them on Yahoo properties longer. In some regions, that means protecting its franchise; in others, that means using pageviews or unique users as a yardstick.

"This is not a campaign of a short-term nature," Steele said, noting that it's a company-wide initiative. "If this was just a marketing campaign, we would have [already] failed."

Leading the charge with a healthy dose of spunk is Bartz, who continues in her attempt to earn trust and credibility in the post Jerry Yang once occupied.

"The nice thing about being an old broad?" Bartz asked, rhetorically. "I'm tough."

Topic: Social Enterprise

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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9 comments
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  • bs

    the typical meaningless marketing bs. they want to spend 100 million on
    that message? a girl totally happy that she is the internet? yahoo is
    doomed. oh wait, we knew that already. (because who in his right mind
    would make the former ceo of autodesk the ceo of a media company?)
    bannedfromzdnetagain
  • RE: Redefining Yahoo: Will $100 million in marketing do the trick?

    Yahoo is no longer my "homepage" since they introduced the newest version of the "New & Improved Homepage"! Who needs to go through all that excess BS, Pop-ups, more pop-ups, suggestions, what am I doing right now?, would you like to add this 'person' (i.e.,spammer) to your contact list?,etc., when you only use the internet for e-mail and research?
    Yahoo is no longer my "favorite place to be" on the internet.
    iceman884@...
  • RE: Redefining Yahoo: Will $100 million in marketing do the trick?

    I stopped using yahoo pretty much when the maps went from classic to the new version and I saw the new yahoo home page and wow did they screw themselves. People want a search engine that is fast clutter free and ad free everything that yahoo is not..Google has the search on lock with Bing a nice new secondary option. Yahoo has died
    Fletchguy
  • RE: Redefining Yahoo: Will $100 million in marketing do the trick?

    I hope it gets better, but I still love the old
    mail(Caled classic) and hate the new one .... the
    newer is to much like gmail style, and the claasic
    still gets a lot of gas to go... New demand give new
    horizonts to search for, so I hope they survive and
    keep giving us the joy we have.
    I love the Groups from Yahoo, think they are a lot
    better than the groups from google, because the google
    is too confussing and to search in it is a mess and
    replys almost never worsks in google groups, despise
    the e-mail fails in the yahoo groups that hapens
    sometimes...hope they can improve in these point!
    oscarkoepke
  • RE: Redefining Yahoo: Will $100 million in marketing do the trick?

    Yahoo needs to allow FREE mail forwarding so we can skip the need for ypops type programs. Stop all the video ads, pop-ups, and other chatty clutter. Remember there is still a large portion of the country that is stuck on dial up and they will never see any kind of high speed internet. What I am doing right now isn't anyone's business but my own. Please stop redesigning my mail and making choices for me. I liked the old classic mail. I do like being able to send larger files, and my spam and mail filters works well. Don't fix what isn't broke...

    Update the web searches and archive the older material. There seems to be too much outdated information. I need to know what is happening in 2009 as well as 1899.
    knuppj1
  • RE: Redefining Yahoo: Will $100 million in marketing do the trick?

    The redesign of the yahoo homepage is awful. It is way too jumpy with the mouseover feature they have incorporated. Crammed with things that will change your screen in a heartbeat if you move your mouse oh so slightly. Because of it I may change to aol or myway; both having more sensible layouts. Whoever thought this design up should rethink it. I also don't want to scroll through the features. I am using a pc, not a cellphone.
    cmoorenow@...
  • Yahoo has taken its hands off the wheel

    I recently HAD to close up my Yahoo Small Business Account, unwillingly too. They were having technical issues that they themselves could not even fix because they are split into so many entities that they don't have the access nor the control to manage and deliver what they are selling and hosting. Three different techs consistently gave me this information and I couldn't even believe they could even help me. Poor Yahoo tech people. "Sorry, I would like to help you, but I cant". I guess because they don't actually seem to own, or have the access to many of the things they have there name on. ...Weird. They sure spend allot of money selling it though. Yahoo has taken its hands off the wheel.
    eswearengin
  • RE: Redefining Yahoo: Will $100 million in marketing do the trick?

    Does anyone remember the big rush of people that walked away from AOL when they decided to change things several years back? I can see it coming here. One of the changes is that ridiculous panel on the left with a search pad & a bunch of useless crap that the average at home surfer would get very little or none at all use out of. I asked their customer help if there was a way I could remove or hide it they said no. So its good bye Yahoo for me.& my business Kind of makes me think of back a few years ago when Microsoft was trying to tell us THEY know what is good for us & what we need & want better than we do ourselves
    dskyner1111@...
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