Yahoo!’s 30 days of faff!

yahoo-logo-300x187Is it nearly 5th September yet? I can’t wait.

I’m counting down the days! It’s like the run-up to Christmas!

Bet you’re excited too!

About what? Well, about Yahoo!’s new logo, of course, what else?

You mean, you’re not checking out every new logo that’s being passed in front of us for 30 days in feverish speculation about which one will be chosen on 5th September?

Nope, me neither.

But you can see the logic here.

Yahoo! is a company with its ad revenues in free fall. Display revenues have declined by 11% year-over-year while price-per-click decreased 7%. Yahoo!’s $1.1 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter was down from $1.22 billion a year earlier.

So faced with all that, priority number one is clearly going to be a PR stunt to change your 20 year old logo, isn’t it?

All change!

The 30-day campaign kicked off last week. It’s being driven by Yahoo! CMO Kathy Savitt who explains the reasoning behind the change as:

Over the past year, there’s been a renewed sense of purpose and progress at Yahoo!, and we want everything we do to reflect this spirit of innovation. While the company is rapidly evolving, our logo — the essence of our brand — should too.

The new logo will be a modern redesign that’s more reflective of our reimagined design and new experiences. To get everyone warmed up, we are kicking off 30 days of change.

Beginning now, we will display a variation of the logo on our homepage and throughout our network in the US for the next month. It’s our way of having some fun while honoring the legacy of our present logo.

So, 30 iterations of new logos that Yahoo! clearly hopes will build a bandwagon effect of growing interest and online comment as we all engage with the process of finding the perfect brand for 2013 and beyond.

Mind you, it’s not all about revolution. Three things are apparently untouchable:

We’ll be keeping the color purple, our iconic exclamation point and of course the famous yodel. After all, some things never go out of style.

Er, quite. So essentially they’re going to dicker around with the fonts and the font sizes for 30 days before naming their chosen logo.

Not enough!

That’s not likely to be enough. Forrester analyst Jim Nail caught the right tone when he told US media:

I think they’ve got bigger problems than their logo…Aside from that flip answer, the whole name ‘Yahoo!’ and the design of that logo is still very, at best, Web 2.0 if not Web 1.0. It’s a bit dated.

Meanwhile branding expert Laura Ries of Ries and Ries  reckons that the gimmick of rolling out 30 new designs could well backfire. Instead of creating a sense of customer participation, it might smack more of dithering:

Instead of changing it in a decisive manner…they will roll out 30 days of other logos to totally confuse people and make mush of any visual identity the brand had left in the mind before revealing the new look.

Binch picked up on Yahoo!’s insistence that the purple, exclamation point and yodel are non-negotiables:

If you’re trying to make real news with the redesign, you have to go for it…[The logos] just don’t look all that different. They’re very incrementally different with different fonts essentially.

But the biggest issue is likely to be simpler: Yahoo! is rolling out 30 logos in the hope that customers will track them all and make their mind up about their favourite.

Once they’ve done that, then they can….oh, er, not a lot really. In fact, not anything. They don’t get to vote on their favourite. This isn’t a popularity poll among Yahoo! users.

So what those who do get engaged with all this faffing around will end up doing is choosing a ‘winner’, then either (a) being pleased to see it chosen by the powers that be or (b) more likely, hacked off that the ‘wrong’ logo was chosen.

 

Mind the Gap! 

gap-logo-change-disaster-400-thumb-400x225-779121Of course Yahoo!’s far from the first corporation to get into trouble around a logo change.

There was the text book case of GAP which decided that its iconic blue box with the word GAP in capital letters should be replaced by a lower case version of their name in front of a small offset box in the upper corner.

Fury on the social media networks was enough to change GAP management’s minds in less than a week.

 

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Any use?

The new logo even inspired a website where people can “Crap Logo Yourself” by entering your own text and getting a logo inspired by GAP’s rebranded logo.

(I’ve done one for Yahoo! Unfortunately it’s not purple, but it does have the exclamation point!)

GAP president Marka Hansen said at the time:

“We’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community.

This wasn’t the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing.

There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way.”

Words that may come back to haunt Yahoo! before too long…

logoprice_12

What you get for £1,500,000

BTW – not sure how much 30 logos is costing Yahoo!, but the price tag on these projects is not insubstantial of course. For example, the BBC spent £1,150,000 of licence fee payers money to create three black boxes with the letters B, B and C in white in them.

Amusing to think then that some of the most recognisable logos in the world such as Google and Coca Cola cost $0 to create, being designed by co-founder Sergey Brin in the first case and the founder’s bookkeeper Frank M. Robinson in the second.

 

Verdict

Firstly, if you’re going to do a 30 day ‘look at us’ user engagement stunt, then at least let the users you do manage to engage have a say in the final decision.

OK, anyone who’s interested enough can tweet about it or post on Facebook – or even on Tumblr!

But there’s no formal voting process so at the end of the day, your vote doesn’t really count. Crowdsourcing in action this isn’t.

Secondly, if you’re going to change anything, change the name, not the logo.

A corporate rebrand is about more than changing your logo and putting the past behind you.

As to the Yahoo! logo itself, I’ve no objection to keeping the colour purple, but the exclamation point that must have seemed like such a good idea back in the day actually just annoys anyone writing the name of the company down.

And the days when we were still excited enough about search engines to yodel ‘Yahoo!’ when we came up with a result are long since gone.

(Actually was anyone ever really that excited about a search result?)

Thirty days of change?

Thirty days of faffing around with a rather pointless PR stunt.

Stuart Lauchlan

Stuart Lauchlan

Stuart Lauchlan has been tracking and commenting on the enterprise IT market for 23 years during which time he's managed to amuse, inform and irritate buy and sell side participants in equal and appropriate measure. Lauchlan also helps companies understand the needs of technology readers.
Stuart Lauchlan

@whostu

Tech journalism - the accident from which I've never recovered