A criticism of Marissa Mayer's predecessors at Yahoo from both press and investors was that none could seem to answer the simple question, “What is Yahoo?”
So it’s no surprise that Mayer, then, entered the job prepared for the question. “What we’re really focused on,” she told Fortune at its Most Powerful Woman Dinner in November, “is inspiring and delighting users amidst their daily habits.”
The response has become something of an anthem.
On her first quarterly call with investors in October, she had first publicly expressed the idea:
“I think this is about improved execution and seeing the opportunities that already are apparent within our business. That means focusing on daily habits like Search, Mail, Homepage, and Mobile.”
Then in her first interview as CEO of Yahoo at Davos in January, she repeated it:
“We already have all the content people want on their phones. We have these daily habits. And I think that whenever you have a daily habit, and are really providing a lot of value around it, there’s an opportunity to create a great business.”
On the next call with investors in January:
“Yahoo Is about making the world’s daily habits more inspiring and entertaining.”
On the Today Show in February:
“What we’re really focused on is inspiring and delighting users amidst their daily habits.”
And the latest investor call in April:
“This is where we get to really think about how can we inspire and delight our users and how can we provide them with amazing features.”
It’s not only inspiring and delightful habits that start to sound like a broken record. If the past is any indication, attendees at her talk in New York this evening will also hear about talent being the key to the success and how Yahoo—with its lack of mobile OS, mobile hardware, social network, or browser—is in a unique position to partner with just about everybody.
Nor is it necessarily a bad thing that Marissa Mayer has stuck to her talking points. The message has trickled down into the narratives of other executives, creating at least an illusion of a cohesive vision that the company has lacked in the past.
“Yahoo is focused on daily habits, and making them entertaining and inspiring,” Flickr product head Markus Spiering told me in February.
“We want your experiences on each of your products to have, we call it, ‘the inspire and delight,’” Adam Cahan, Yahoo’s senior vice president of mobile and emerging products, told me in the same month.
A broken record might be good for a company. It's just not so entertaining at a conference.
Update: Marissa Mayer did indeed inspire and delight the audience at her talk last night with a run down of her daily habits strategy. She also defended her decision to ban working from home by noting that though workers are more productive independently, they are more creative and innovative when they're together.
[Image: Flickr user LeWEB12]