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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Yahoo up their own derriere - the $100 million rebranding that won't work. Not ever.

A few years ago I chaired a series of lectures or something like that for some of the best advertising students in Britain.

They had to do an exercise on selling Yahoo, and the overwhelming impression I formed was that whilst the students were quite bright, Yahoo had no idea what they were selling or why anyone should prefer them to Google.

Now I see Yahoo is spending $100 million on a rebranding campaign. Research reveals - says Advertising Age - that "users want the web to be more personally relevant".

Yes, they paid to find that out. For nothing I will tell you that everybody wants everything to be personally relevant. This is why they buy things, you cluckheads.

But let us turn aside from such idiocy, and note that Ogilvy & Mather has created a campaign "of outdoor and print executions that spout generic-sounding affirmative slogans such as 'There's a new master of the digital universe: You,' while showing people dancing and skateboarding against colorful backgrounds. It also modified a version of the marketer's familiar yodel in TV ads."

Pretty vomit-making stuff which assumes the customer is a moron - not a good idea, said David Ogilvy - but more to the point, utterly irrelevant. Why do advertising people imagine you change the way people see your brand - and consequently get them to buy more - by sticking new labels on old jars? Expensive ones in this case.

You don't. A brand is formed (as David Ogilvy also pointed out) of a myriad impressions; but these start with what it is, not a series of childish messages. Moreover, once a brand's image is fixed in people's minds that image is hard, almost impossible to shift. To achieve that very difficult trick you have to DO something different. For instance, Skoda's image did not change until Volkswagen started making their cars.

Mind you, I imagine they all know that at Ogilvy & Mather - but who can turn down that many millions?

It isn't working, clearly, or Yahoo wouldn't have just called in Goodby, Silverstein to the rescue. But they can't make water run uphill either.

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