Dear New Yahoo Owners, The #YodelMustGo

It’s official, Yahoo! is FOR SALE. (via Mashable)

I loved Yahoo!. I was a huge supporter. For many years, Yahoo! was my defacto homepage for news. I had multiple email accounts, personal and business hosting with them at one point, and yes, a kick-ass geocities site way back when.

Doesn’t that just bring back memories? Horrific, frustrating memories?

I’ve done Pro Football Pick’em, participated in the YPN, Yahoo! Go, Yahoo 360, Photos to flickr, and I even was fortunate enough to travel to Sunnyvale and help consult on Project Mondo years ago.

And then…

Well, like most of you, I left. No need for fanfare, no tweets, I just left.

Sure, I still had to play Pick’em there because my friend has her Dad in the league, but I haven’t checked that email in over 5 years (as I am reminded by the red alert with some gargantuan number on the header). I used tumblr before they bought it and still do, but I hate it inside of Yahoo!. The last time I checked the music news, I saw a Rolling Stone story (which used to be a music content partner) about banking on the feed, and I never went back again. It just showed how poorly they were running things to not know that RS is more of a national affairs content partner now.

But, I digress. I know some fantastic people at Yahoo!, especially on the marketing side. I respect them, and I know how hard they have worked under difficult circumstances. So, rather than enter into a long criticism of business models and product/content (read jason’s stuff for how to fix it and other observations, as well as Jay Yarrow), I will cut to the heart of why I think Yahoo! is doomed.

It’s the song.

The fucking yodel.

That horrible, embarrassing, dated, befuddling audio cue.

This one:

Now, the man who did it is a fine person I am sure. I do not know him, nor have we met. His name is Wylie Gustafson. But, it’s common knowledge now that he was also screwed over pretty hard from the outset:

In 1996, the 40-year-old yodeler received a one-time, nonunion-scale payment of $590 for recording the three-note Yahoo yodel. He was paid an additional $590.38 in January 1999, when he complained about the uncompensated and unconsented (sic) use of the yodel after seeing a Yahoo commercial on the Super Bowl.

He and Yahoo! eventually did settle the dispute. But you see, the song was tainted from the beginning, mired in underhanded business practices without a care for the user community tribe identity.

How in the samhell does a social tech company choose to use a yodel?

More precisely:

How in the samhell does a social tech company continue to use a yodel?

The original had banjo too! It made no sense when it first ran, but it was quirky and stood out. However, it makes absolutely no fucking sense at all in a mobile, millennial, EDM, tech-savvy world. I mean, you don’t have to be a growthhacker or marketing genius to understand that. I can’t imagine it’s been focus-group tested anytime in this decade.

I know, definitively, many inside of the campus agree with me. I know that many people have brought up the same issue internally. “Let’s refresh the brand musically.” They’ve been roundly rejected with the zeal of a crazed child not letting go of her Mr. Whiffles blanky.

All of this while they’ve cycled through at least nine unique logo changes. Including that crazy stunt where they had 30 prototypes.

Basically the OG.

Music branding is not only cool, it’s important to every brand. Think of it as “the company you keep.” It’s important to define the tribe you are asking users to join and associate with — music does that. It’s important to attract demographics aligned with your product and messaging — music does that. Ah hell, you know what I mean, it’s just important! (Granted, as a music producer, licensor, and songwriter, I’m biased, but I’m also right.)

Audio branding is the approach of using unique, proprietary sound and music to convey a brand’s essence and values. Just as visual branding defines a brand using color and shape, audio branding defines a brand through sound and music — Jeffrey Hayzlett (a favorite marketer of mine)

Which brings us to a few years ago, when my producing partner Dave, and I, had the sliver of an opportunity to convince Yahoo! to change their damn jingle. After a laborious process, secret dropboxes and frustrating emails, the entire project was shut down “from above.”

So, knowing that there is no chance these cuts will be used now, I give to the world the results of that glorious moment where the yodel was almost killed, in hopes that the new owners will have their ears open to new possibilities.

This was one of the finals, we loved this one, Choir Effect with low voice:

This one was just fun and different, just a friendly voice :

The Rocker one for a different texture, there’s a female one too.

And this was the other clear winner:

Look, we have 10–15 of these. We do this sort of thing for other companies, many of which you’ve probably seen and heard.

I wish Yahoo!, and all of the talented people that have worked so hard to right the ship, well. Whatever the future holds for Yahoo! it must include new music.

Call it brand music, audio identity, or just a jingle….

The #YodelMustGo