Categories: Laura

Yahoo! From fun to serious and dark.

Yahoo took a
memorable, unique logo and after 30 days and 30 designs ended up with a rather average,
boring, uninspired one.

Marissa Mayer
was clearly trying to make her mark on the company by changing the logo and giving
it her own personal touch.

And while Yahoo
succeeded in getting a lot of attention and PR. The 30 days of logos created a media
frenzy for the big reveal.

redesign ultimately failed in my opinion because the big reveal wasn’t very
exciting. (Reminded me of the Segway launch!)

The new logo lacks the
weight and uniqueness of the old. Change for change sake isn’t smart marketing.

should only be undertaken for a specific reason. Logos sometimes need minor tweaks
to stay current, but major changes should be driven by strategy not design.

In branding
it is always: strategy first, design second.

Before they
ever thought about what to do with the logo. Marissa first needed to answer
this: What is a Yahoo!?

What is a
Yahoo is the problem at Yahoo. I have no idea what it is. Nor to most people.

No big brand
was ever built unless it stood for something.

Google is
search. Facebook is social networking. Twitter is short messaging.

Marissa has done
a lot of busy work, buying 17 companies, changing the logo, cleaning up the
homepage. But you can’t buy your way to success. Is buying Nokia going to help
Microsoft? I don’t think so.

Changing the
logo doesn’t change the fact most people can’t tell you what a Yahoo is.

A logo is
even more important for an internet brand since the company has no physical real
world presence. Brands like Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter are basically
identified by visuals alone to establish their brand in the mind of the

The logo
that does it the best is Twitter. They have not just the logo, but the Twitter
bird visual hammer that communicates the core idea of Tweets.

Yahoo has
the exclamation point. But who knows what that means? It’s no visual hammer.

My advice to
Marissa would have been this: Let’s sit down and first figure out what a Yahoo
is. How can we focus and then verbalize what this brand stands for? Once we
know that, then we can look at the logo and see what changes if any should be

The good
news is that Yahoo didn’t go totally overboard with the changes like Tropicana,
the Gap or JCPenny. Radical changes like those freak consumers out. When you
change a logo that drastically it instantly loses its authenticity.

The change
Yahoo made hasn’t totally destroyed it authenticity, but it has weakened it
unique identity. And over time as people forget the old Yahoo, the new one
looks rather generic. And people still won’t know what a Yahoo is.

Laura Ries :

View Comments (3)

  • One of the possible strategies for Yahoo! is "portal." A portal is an entry point. Since Yahoo lost search, I think one of the reasons people go there is to be "linked" to quick news and happenings i.e. Drudge Report.
    "Your link to the World is only one-click away.....YAHOO!"
    In a sense they have done the searching for you and placed the top of everything on the site.
    Great post. With a name like Yahoo! the logo should be fun.

  • the elephant in the room is that yahoo! does not want to answer what a yahoo is, because yahoo! as it exists today is an anachronism.
    do people even use portals any more? i mean, serious, grown-up purveyors of serious news and information? the yahoo! home page is the "news" equivalent of junk food: stories that belong in (or surely were sourced from) us weekly, the national enquirer or TMZ. i'm not so sure i'd hang my hat on the idea of being the biggest, celebrity-gossip content aggregator on the web. there was a time when a portal was useful, in the days before you could essentially aggregate your own content, and before you could link all your social media accounts (and before social-media accounts even existed), but today? i'm skeptical.
    let aol or msn take the last gasps over portals; scrap the yahoo! homepage and move the meter by doing something innovative with tumblr. you forced all your employees to work in the office again, ms. mayer. i'm certain the creativity and collaboration are simply gushing from every corner: to wit, the internal logo-design team's 30 days of font roulette.
    laura, i also think you nailed it on the head to call what mayer has done to date "busy work." so far, it seems like there's been a lot of activity—but i fear it's being mistaken for productivity.

  • Perhaps Marissa is making the brand more generic to erase the old brand (over time), and to buy time to properly discover and/or craft the new brand.