What we can learn from Marissa Mayer’s new logo for Yahoo

Marissa Mayer’s newest bit of non-strategic putzing around — which I fear may be the case in the acquisition spree she’s been on — is the unveiling of a new logo for the internet giant that she personally developed over one weekend with the help of five other Yahooligans.  She tells the story in Geeking Out on the Logo, which reads like a ‘what I did on my summer vacation’.

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The new Yahoo logo

I won’t get into the details of the logo, how bizarre this approach is, and how a multi-billion dollar company might want to bring in a branding agency and highly trained logo designers for a project like this. I will let Oliver Reichenstein do that, in his well-named Logo, Bullshit & Co., Inc. The conclusion of his righteous fisking of her memo:

Designing a $10 Billion Dollar company’s logo over a weekend, without considering the whole of the brand identity and what it needs to do… this is not serious.

Now, again, let’s assume the best case. Let’s say that all of this is just a marketing stunt, and while for unknown reasons the logo is technically not quite on par with the $10 Billion Dollar brand it represents, everything has been calculated and thought through. This is very unlikely, but let’s assume it anyway.

For a brand like Yahoo there is something more important than spacing, kerning, colors, serifs, or making designers angry at this point. No, it’s not getting attention. It’s gaining trust. Ironically, for that you need a reflective, clear, and consistent brand identity. A different logo powered by bullshit doesn’t convey identity and trustworthiness. It conveys desperation.

The intern working with Mayer on the logo made his own pass at a logo, and I like it better. Especially losing the dumb exclamation mark, which seems like the worst reminder of how boring Yahoo has become, or the irrational exuberance of the dotcom era.

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I think Mayer demonstrated with this logo episode — like she did with her “no remote work” edict (see Marissa Mayer talks about ‘no remote work’ edict) — that she makes precipitous and sweeping changes to the business without actually getting deep into the actual hard work of thinking it all the way through.

In this case she complete dismissed the idea of going through a conventional rebranding exercise and instead played around in Adobe Illustrator and cooked up a slapdash logo, which trivializes branding. In the no remote work brouhaha, she sidestepped the work of building deep cultural norms inclusively and broadly. Instead she simply pushed her own bias down everybody’s throats, and called it “culture building”.

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Stowe Boyd

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