Dead brand walking

YahooDiedAfter learning that Yahoo had just slashed another 2,000 jobs, Damon Vickers, a money manager in Seattle who closely follows tech stocks, said: “(Yahoo) lost the search game to Google a long time ago”. He followed that up with a poignant question, 'What do you do with a cadaver? Where do you place your organs when you die?”

Yahoo is indeed Silicon Valley's version of Whitney Houston. It's a dead brand walking. And, last week's bloodbath was its fifth massive layoff in as many years.

I had the 'opportunity' to represent Yahoo for 15 tumultuous months and witnessed massive dysfunction including, but certainly not limited, to:

- A highly siloed organization. Business units never communicated with one another and, in fact, often cannibalized each other's clients.

- A near-total lack of internal communications and coordination. Sales didn't talk with R&D/technology and neither paid any respect whatsoever to marketing. The latter, in turn, trembled in their collective boots if the sales leaders expressed displeasure with an article, advertisement or event that didn't praise Yahoo's latest product.

- A toxic culture. We witnessed firsthand the rise and fall of Carol 'the F-BombShell' Bartz. Her reign of terror rivaled that of Marat's and Robespierre's during the French Revolution. She antagonized long-time employees who longed for a strong leader while alienating the board and the media with her foul language and strong arm tactics. Worst of all, Bartz's blame game style infected the entire organization (and trickled down all the way to the external agencies).

- Chaos du jour. Yahoo could never get out of its own way. Our direct reports kept asking for strategic plans but, instead, kept us focused on putting out a new crisis each and every day. When the new VP of PR arrived, his henchman fired us, saying we “…hadn't demonstrated a strategic understanding of the business of their business.” His comment would have been laugh out loud funny, if it hadn't hit us so hard financially.

When I read about Yahoo's death throes, I think back to the glowing PR Week cover story of the company's newly-minted VP of PR (the one who didn't have the courtesy or guts to fire us personally). When asked by PR Week to name his number one goal, he said, “That's easy. I'm tired of seeing people at Yahoo wondering what Google's up to. I want people at Google wondering what Yahoo's up to.”

I'll bet the people of Google ARE wondering what Yahoo's up to. They probably have a dead pool organized to guess the exact date Yahoo either declares Chapter 11 or is sold at a fire sale price.

It's no longer a matter of if, but when. Yahoo is a dead brand walking.

3 thoughts on “Dead brand walking

  1. Wow. What a shame. A real recipe for disaster. I’ll never understand why companies allow this kind of pervasive dysfunction to continue until it’s too late to do anything about it. There were probably many smart, innovative employees there at one time who were pummeled and tossed to the curb.

  2. Wow. What a shame. A real recipe for disaster. I’l never understand why companies allow this kind of pervasive dysfunction to continue until it’s too late to do anything about it. There were probably many smart, innovative employees there at one time who were pummeled and tossed to the curb.

  3. I agree that Yahoo’s death watch is well underway.
    Aside from the wasted human capital, there is also value within Yahoo’s unspectacular, stolid user base. When the inevitable happens, it will be kind of like what the assets in a Chapter 7 of a really big company are really worth. It’ll be interesting to see how Google, Bing, whomever absorb that business.