Kara Swisher

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Yahoo's Extreme Makeover Confirmed With the Hiring of a New Global Marketing Exec


Last week, BoomTown posted a detailed piece on Yahoo’s plans for a massive rebranding and marketing push, which included the hiring of outside consultant Penny Baldwin (pictured here), who was a former top exec at Young & Rubicam.

And, yesterday, Baldwin became an official Yahoo exec, as SVP of global integrated marketing and brand management.

Baldwin, said Yahoo (YHOO), “will lead the company’s global brand efforts, and is responsible for developing and executing Yahoo!’s brand marketing approach including brand management, corporate messaging, integrated marketing and advertising.”

Said Baldwin in a statement, signaling that Yahoo is poised for an important brand makeover: “This is a seminal moment for the Yahoo! brand and for the business overall.”

While the company said Baldwin’s was a newly created position, it is not hugely different from the job that was held by Allen Olivo, who was SVP of global brand marketing until he recently left Yahoo.

Yahoo had previously described his job as “overseeing all aspects of its advertising and brand marketing strategy worldwide, including design and editorial.”

But, said many sources at the company, Baldwin’s purview is much larger, especially as it will involve a major overhaul of Yahoo’s image, which is likely to be rolled out as the Internet site also launches its redesigned front page in the fall.


In addition, unlike past Yahoo marketing execs, Baldwin has been described to me by many people at the company as much more colorful and bold in her style, and that she has been advocating more aggressive ideas about reinvigorating the Yahoo brand.

“Well, Penny is definitely not Yahoo,” said one Yahoo source, joking about the company’s quainter, yodel-focused and purple-toned image. “Which is probably a good thing.”

Baldwin reports to CMO Elisa Steele. It’s Steele, as I previously reported, who has been leading the rebranding effort at Yahoo.

It is aimed at repairing a damaged public image, communicating innovation and focusing consumers on what defines Yahoo in the years ahead.

Besides the hiring of Baldwin, Steele has also retained well-known (and pricey!) brand consulting firm Landor Associates.

Many themes have been considered to depict Yahoo going forward–most along the lines of Yahoo still being a key hub destination for Internet users.

Those possible directions were discussed at a recent off-site meeting of Yahoo’s top execs, led by Steele, who ran through the tangled history of Yahoo’s marketing efforts and showed off some rough ideas for the future.

One motto considered, among several: Yahoo as “your home on the Web.”

It is not clear how much Yahoo is prepared to spend on this rebranding effort. Microsoft (MSFT), for example, is in the midst of a $100 million marketing campaign around the recent relaunch of its Bing search service.

Here is the official press release about Baldwin:

Penny Baldwin Appointed to Senior Vice President of Global Integrated Marketing and Brand Management at Yahoo!

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Jun 30, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE)–Yahoo! Inc. announced today that Penny Baldwin has been appointed to senior vice president, global integrated marketing and brand management. She assumes this newly created position immediately and reports to Yahoo!’s chief marketing officer, Elisa Steele.

Baldwin will lead the company’s global brand efforts, and is responsible for developing and executing Yahoo!’s brand marketing approach including brand management, corporate messaging, integrated marketing and advertising.

“One of Yahoo!’s greatest assets is its brand,” said Steele. “Our integrated, global approach is critical to our success and we have a deep business commitment to fulfill our promise to our users, customers and partners. Penny is uniquely qualified to lead the effort and her leadership, experiences, knowledge and skills are excellent additions to the Yahoo! marketing team.”

She is a 20-year veteran of global brand strategy development and execution across all internal and market-facing touch points. Most recently, Baldwin served as Managing Partner of Young & Rubicam Brands, Y&R Advertising and Wunderman Direct Marketing. As agency leader and manager, she was responsible for leading the efforts of large global teams across industries. Her experiences span technology, retail, packaged goods, finance, travel, gaming, wireless communications, entertainment, healthcare and sports marketing.

Baldwin has worked with several Fortune 500 brands including Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, AMD, NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, Siebel Systems and Hewlett-Packard, among others. She has also worked with leading brands including Cadbury, Schweppes, Foster Farms, Jacuzzi, Wells Fargo, DHL, AT&T and Palm.

“This is a seminal moment for the Yahoo! brand and for the business overall,” said Baldwin. “I am delighted to be part of the leadership team that will take Yahoo! to the next level as we evolve our brand strategy worldwide.”

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus