Praying for Mayer’s Miracle

18 Jul

By now, you’ve heard more than your fair share about Marissa Mayer, the pretty, pregnant, brainy blonde taking over Yahoo’s reins. As reporters scurry to dig up tales of the tech guru’s past, women beat their chests off in pride at Yahoo’s decision to name the mother-to-be  CEO three months before her first born’s due date and  business analysts cast their wagers on the likelihood of her success, I am simply soaking it all it in. 

Taking the reins of a brand that boasts of being the first “online navigational guide to the Web” and being responsible for its success or demise is daunting. The company was incorporated in 1995 by a pair of electronic engineering students at Mayer’s alma mater, Stanford University. Over the past 17 years, an eternity in tech years, Yahoo, whose name means “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth” has become the senile old man, the one nodding off in his rocking chair as the world rolls by.  In 2011, Yahoo clung to a mere 15 % of the online market share compared to the 66 % held by Google.

In 2012, Yahoo will hold less than 10 % of sales in  U.S. spending. Not a pretty picture. It saddens me to see its decline. . .

But at least, internally, the company remains optimistic:

“Today, Yahoo! Inc. is a leading global Internet communications, commerce and media company that offers a comprehensive branded network of services to more than 345 million individuals each month worldwide. As the first online navigational guide to the Web, http://www.yahoo.com is the leading guide in terms of traffic, advertising, household and business user reach. Yahoo! is the No. 1 Internet brand globally and reaches the largest audience worldwide,” its media page still reads. 

Perhaps they should update that.

Yahoo needs to break from its past altogether. Most, like me, remember fondly when they first opened their Yahoo accounts, years ago and attributed cute nicknames, numbers and humorous jargon before its @ sign. Mayer needs to communicate loud and clear that the Yahoo of yesteryear is gone. In tech, being the first mover or oldest equals simply wrinkles and arthritis, not prestige. And in advertising, image matters. No one want to spend money with a brand that is widely considered old and irrelevant. Mayer has to give them a tangible reason to bank on Yahoo. And I think the fresh-faced go-getter is just the woman to give the company a tech makeover.

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