Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Sticks With "It's Y!ou," Expanding Pricey Ad Campaign by Pushing "Hero Products" and Relevance

its-you

When Yahoo launched its massive advertising campaign–featuring the tagline, “It’s Y!ou”–earlier this fall with splashy events in New York and slick marketing rollouts all over the U.S., not everyone at the Internet portal loved it.

“It’s not M!e,” joked a longtime Yahoo (YHOO) exec to BoomTown in an email, one of many like it that I got from inside the company, all of which worried about whether the motto and ad effort had enough punch and point to get Yahoo back on track.

And, outside the company, several too-early reports purported to show that the $100 million campaign to revitalize the Yahoo brand was not working because it had not increased audience–although both Forrester Research (FORR) and Nielsen penned counterarguments.

In any case, none of the noise seems to have bothered the Silicon Valley-based Yahoo, whose execs say they are thrilled with the results so far. Thus, Yahoo is staying on message as it moves into the latest phase of the multiyear effort.

That includes adding to the overall brand promise more specific “product proof points” that focus on Yahoo’s “hero products,” such as search, email, homepage, mobile and more.

Yahoo’s new lead creative team at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners has been working on the next direction, which will roll out after the new year and stress “relevance.”

The next push will include even more online advertising, as well as more outdoor branding. But it will also add guerrilla marketing, such as live demos at analog locations, from Internet cafes in Malaysia to senior citizen centers here in the U.S.

What’s not changing at all is the main brand declaration, as the message rolls out to more countries in the months ahead.

“We are committed to ‘It’s You,’ and it is a foundational element that will remain intact,” said Penny Baldwin, SVP of Yahoo’s global integrated marketing and brand management, in an interview with me. “Now we are going to be demonstrating and tuning the experience.”

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Added Baldwin, who arrived at the company this summer: “The first chapter has been to root the brand position…since the image and stance was muddied in the past. Now, we are going to clarify our position.”

And that position is that Yahoo execs believe feedback from sales, consumers, employees and advertisers to the campaign has been largely positive and will goose its business.

More to the point, said Baldwin, the effort has started to show some results, especially in international markets such as India and the U.K, where the brand campaign first launched.

“Our main message has been to say that we have more of what you want and less of what you don’t want and showing relevance is working,” said Baldwin. “We are simply give it more meaning and more evidence, so consumers will spend more time with us.”

Baldwin points to several different and more recent polls, including from comScore (SCOR) and Nielsen, that do indeed show increases in Yahoo homepage engagement of three to five percent from September to October.

A Yahoo spokesman said that the company’s goal has been mostly to “increase engagement with U.S. audience (where we saw positive results in page views, time spent) rather than on unique visitors, which will take longer as we already have about 80 percent penetration.”

In less mature markets, the spokesman noted, both traffic and engagement are the goals.

As for any grumpy employees, the spokesman said a recent internal Yahoo survey showed that about 80 percent of employees responded favorably or very favorably to the brand, and another 13 percent were neutral.

(Apparently, that was the 13 percent who all emailed me!)

Most important, he said, Yahoo was sticking to its guns because it has seen “statistically significant lifts in ‘brand familiarity’ and ‘future brand usage.’”

That’s a fancy way of saying people are noticing the ads, which would be hard not to, since they are everywhere (including on this Web site).

And there will be more where that came from, said Baldwin, as the company leans further into its initial efforts at making consumers think again about Yahoo.

“This is a brand transformation issue,” said Baldwin flatly.


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