Yahoo! plans to market like it’s 1999

By Sterling “Chip” Camden
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

yahoo-purple-logojpgGather around, children, and I’ll tell you a tale of a bygone era when Yahoo! was relevant.  Way back in the late 1990s and even into the early 2000s, Yahoo! was the web portal and search engine of choice for many netizens.  But that was before the ascendance of the Great Google.

Since then, Yahoo! has struggled to keep users coming back.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t even think about Yahoo! when I consider where to do something online, whether it’s search, email, maps, forums, or anything else.  The only Yahoo! service I use at all is Yahoo! Groups, and that’s only because the RSS Advisory Board’s public group is hosted there (not my decision).

Now Yahoo! is looking for ways to get their yodel back with a massive marketing effort, led by a new Chief Marketing Officer, Elisa Steele, and aided by some well-known outside consultants.

Hmm.. I think I could save them some big consulting bucks with one piece of free advice:  make better products.  As CEO Carol Bartz said in a recent interview, “The best way to change the perception is to do a good job and then talk about it.”  Note how “do a good job” comes before “talk about it.”  Marketing is a very important part of success, but if you don’t have the products to back it up, it’s just a bunch of hot air.

What do you think about Yahoo!’s products?  Do they have a potential niche in which they could excel?  Or are they doomed to a series of unsuccessful attempts to catch up with Google, while being alternatively courted and slapped around by Microsoft?

Here’s Yahoo!’s own account of their history.  Note how it lacks any significant events after 1995, or any mention of their competitors.  They claim:  “Yahoo! is the No. 1 Internet brand and reaches the largest audience worldwide.”  I’d like to see the numbers to back that up, but then again the page is Copyrighted 2005.

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