Yahoo is a punchline. They can’t keep a CEO, they can’t hold a board meeting without a fight, they have an aging user base and extraordinary overhead. They sold off their search to a company (Microsoft) that’s stealing search traffic from them. They are a mess.
Marissa Meyer was hired after Hulu’s Jason Kilar reportedly didn’t want the job. After she was hired, articles about her focused on her pregnancy, her gender, her fashion sense, her compensation and very little about how she might run the company. She was interesting. Yahoo was not….
Who is Kathy Savitt?
Kathy Savitt is the new CMO of Yahoo. Before that she was CEO and founder of Lockerz, and before that worked with Amazon and American Eagle (among others). What defines Savitt is her understanding of Generation Z, the post-millennial, post 9/11 generation. She describes that they have a deeply integrated experience with technology and this makes them into an intuitive, deeply fragmented consumer. Savitt describes (in her talk embedded below) how her company Lockerz focuses on a wider swath of consumers, encompassing Gen Z but also much if not all of the millennials as well.
Make no mistake: she’s there to get Yahoo some Zs. The only question is what area(s) Mayer and Savitt are going to focus on.
What about the millennials?
Last night I watched Brian Solis’ interview with Brendan Wallace, the Co-CEO of “LinkedIn for millenials” start-up, Identified. Both Wallace and Solis made some interesting points about the work habits and expectations of this generation, among them that they are quite entrepreneurial, view jobs as a stepping stones to bigger opportunities. Though I’m not convinced that the value proposition of a product like Identified for employers, the insights were enlightening. However, the consumption of millenials appear to have more in common with Gen Xers than with Generation Z. Despite their egocentricity, their buying behavior isn’t that much of a deviation from the norm.
What I love about this move from Yahoo
Most of us have had those “if I were the CEO” moments where we would have been more agile, more bold, and less risk averse. The fact of the matter is that wholesale change in strategy and direction is very rarely accomplished. Especially for a public company, the board and shareholders are pretty unforgiving for putting their interests at risk. Savitt’s hire reveals that Marissa Meyer is willing to make those bold choices, to use Yahoo’s resources for a blue ocean-type strategy.
It’s still unlikely that Yahoo will be successful, but they’re a heck of a lot closer to success with Mayer and Savitt at the helm. Say what you will about Yahoo, they aren’t a punchline anymore. If Savitt’s insight is correct and Yahoo can successfully engage the Gen Z consumer, the quality of Yahoo’s problems could getting exponentially better.