NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When a brand needs a fix, everyone's a doctor, and Ad Age readers are no exception. Now that Yahoo is taking its branding assignment to Landor Associates and tapping former Y&R managing director Penny Baldwin as senior VP-global integrated marketing and brand management, Ad Age decided to ask readers for a few ideas to remake the still-popular portal. (Branding problem or not, Yahoo still managed to grow 6% to 151.3 million unique U.S. visitors in May, per ComScore.) Readers' suggestions ranged from personalization and an emphasis on fun to a debate on whether to keep the brand's signature purple. Are you listening, Carol Bartz?
Own "fun," said Leslie Singer of HS Dominion/Brand Consultancy in New York, who suggested it could do so by sponsoring unusual sports such as extreme Frisbee, handing out interactive toys such as Yahoo-branded light-up yo-yos and creating quirky events like purple light shows. She suggested it take a cue from T-Mobile and its "Dance" video in London's Liverpool Station. "Feel-good and brand interaction is a strategy that keeps on giving --and if you are a tad derivative in a category, that can be a differentiation that sticks," she said. Added Roger from Stamford: "Yahoo built its brand as an innovator with a bit of a rebellious tone. It owns neither attribute today."
A few commenters suggested they wanted more personalization out of Yahoo. The portal already offers users MyYahoo, where they can customize the news feeds and widgets they want to see when they go to the site, but Mitch Drew suggested it could go even further: rename the site to help denote its personal relevance. Among his suggestions? YaYou, YahooMe and YahooYou. While those are unlikely, he offered the more practical advice that it pick up on the idea "information overload" that Microsoft's Bing advertising introduced. "The next generation of search engines will care more about MY needs and ... Yahoo could lead the way," he said.
Some suggested the problem starts with the idea of a programmed home page -- not everyone wants to see the day's most "popular" news. Ashley Keene from Mason, Ohio, for example, said she is "getting a little frustrated with the tabloid feel" and gave a virtual eye-roll to headlines such as "Shia LaBeouf says he'd rather 'eat glass' than play this game with Megan Fox. Plus, his big diss." VanderHoog, from Amsterdam, said the home page is full of stuff "that is supposed to be popular but which I do not want."
Commenters were split on whether Yahoo should stick to its purple roots or lose the hue. David Strauss from Montreal suggested it ditch the color purple in favor of red or blue, but Brazil's Mariel Abarreira said its shade is "not only a color of the website. It's a feeling." But she said that connection is lost in her country.
Not a branding problem
Several commenters said this isn't a branding problem at all but that Yahoo should rethink what it is. "It's no longer about the brand, it's about the now and how users want to use something and why they use something," said periodicdesign of Round Hill, Va. Added Helvatter from Munich, "The important thing is the service and not the color of the icon or whatever."
JordanLynne from Minneapolis said Yahoo must be "the platform, not the destination. You must allow the user to 'use' you, reshape you, retool you until you conform to their space, their habits, their every day." George Ramos, CEO of Guias Local, echoed the sentiment that Yahoo's future was as a platform upon which people could innovate and build: "Bottom Line, you established yourself as an engine [so] no need to remind everyone every day. Let companies use your technology [such as] maps, IM, API[s], Launchast, without the Yahoo name everywhere. Let them look good and use your product, and in the end Yahoo will win fans again."