Yahoo's new marketing push tells us to "Start Wearing Purple." A website created for the campaign features a video of various grungy-looking people, including Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, wearing purple and hollering. We'd show you the video, but it's not very different from a clip a tipster found of Yahoo cofounder David Filo and top exec Ash Patel dancing awkwardly to a Kelly Clarkson cover. The pair flail around like they're in some kind of bizarro-world Apple iPod commercial. That's the problem with Yahoo: It thinks it's an iPod — universally loved and carried around. But it's really a Mac — a fine product nevertheless rejected by many.Click to view Yahoo, triumphant over a host of other wannabe Web portals in the '90s, resurgent in the early part of this decade, has never really gotten used to not being No. 1. Apple, for all its arrogance, recognizes that the Mac is not the best-selling PC brand. Yahoo's marketing department should spend all its time explaining to Internet users why they should use Yahoo instead of its competitors. That's what Apple does with its "Mac vs. PC" ads. Each commercial humorously sticks to its talking points comparing the advantages of Macs over PCs. Apple does this because it remains far behind in the PC market and needs to convince customers to switch from more popular products. That's what Yahoo needs to do in search. But instead of saying why users should, it markets itself the way Apple markets the iPod — as a ubiquitous aspect of a certain way of life. Apple can do this because it already dominates a market full of similar digital music players. A better product helped sell the iPod to the masses. But an advertising campaign which keeps people associating themselves with the brand reinforces Apple's dominance. Yahoo doesn't have that luxury. It still dominates, but in tiny niches. It needs to say why Yahoo News is better than Google News and the New York Times. It needs to say why Yahoo Fantasy Sports games are the most popular on the Web. It needs to say why anyone who owns a digital camera should upload their pictures to Flickr, not Facebook. But instead, Yahoo spends all it's time trying too hard to convince users how wonderfully wacky it is. What's tragic about that is that the brand Yahoo is trying to create isn't particularly attractive. Look, it screams, we're so desperate to be seen as kooky kids, we're willing to hit our top executives in the face with rubber balls! Perhaps the real target of the campaign is Yahoo's own employees. Morale is in the dumpster at its Sunnyvale headquarters. "Bleeding purple," Yahoo's longtime catchphrase for displaying loyalty to the company, has come to refer to the endless exodus of employees. Wearing purple may boost the mood of longtime Yahoos. But it will hurt recruiting for those outside the cult. What adult wants to work at the company which still hasn't figured out what it wants to be when it grows up?
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