Day 18

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Day 22

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Day 21

Day 20

Day 19

Day 4

Day 2

Day 1

Why Yahoo's "30 Logos In 30 Days" Campaign Is Actually Brilliant Rebranding

Yahoo’s new logo play is not a gimmicky marketing stunt, argues the author, but a clever, innovative, data-driven rebranding, utilizing a large-scale A/B test to find the best look possible.

Yahoo recently announced it's getting a new logo.

New CEO, new direction, new brand--makes sense. The question is: Why is Yahoo rebranding via a "30 Logos in 30 Days" campaign?

Logo for Yahoo! Homepage on August, 28 2013

At first glance, it seems like a marketing stunt that’s backfired. Criticized as a “gimmicky campaign” that has “confused consumers,” the Yahoo campaign appears to be a pale imitation of Google’s Logo Doodles (the themed logos that appear on Google’s search engine site).

It would be easy to jump on this Yahoo-hater bandwagon and notch this up as another attempt to be cool that’s ended in a face palm. But that would be unfair.

The truth is, Yahoo’s "30 Logos in 30 Days" is not a gimmicky marketing stunt but more likely a clever, innovative, data-driven rebranding. In my opinion, Yahoo is almost certainly running a large-scale logo design A/B test to find the best logo possible. Well, actually, by testing 30 logos sequentially (rather than split-testing two options), it's more of an A/Z test than an A/B test.

Respect.

So, why would Yahoo test their logo?

My bet is this: Marissa Mayer said, “We need to rebrand; we need a new logo." So the CMO kicked off a project and presented some options to Marissa Mayer. Generating the ideas would've been easy (we crowdsourced more than 200 Yahoo logo ideas for $200). But then things got harder. The conversation went like this: “I really like this one,” then someone else said “I hate it” and then someone from marketing piped up with “but the focus group loved that one.”

Then someone asked, “How do we know this is better than our current logo? Is the new logo going to help us with revenue? What if people hate the new logo?”

They all agreed the only way to know would be to test it.

It appears Yahoo commenced testing new logos in October 2012 (shortly after Marissa Mayer took the helm), when TechCrunch caught Yahoo testing logos discreetly on its homepage. Yahoo’s response was: “Yahoo! is continually developing and testing new concepts in an effort to offer the most delightful experiences for users and advertisers, but we don’t have anything new to announce at this time.”

Fast forward one year, and it appears Yahoo’s "30 Logos in 30 Days" is taking this approach of testing logos to a new level.

And the approach makes sense.

The first reason testing makes sense is (in theory) it should help Yahoo find the best logo possible. Google (under Marissa Mayer's guidance) apparently tested 41 different shades of blue on links to maximize the click-through rate. Would it not follow that a logo could impact visitor behavior, clicks and ultimately revenue?

The second reason it makes sense is running a test like this would also gauge how the public will react to a new design. Yahoo! is sharing one design every day on Tumblr and Facebook and will (no doubt) be watching the public’s reaction.

Consider the alternative possibility: that Yahoo might be going to all this effort, showing users 30 different logos over a month and then making a decision that ignores the data. Now, that would be strange and unlikely.

Whether Yahoo are A/Z testing or not, there's no doubt a data-driven testing approach to design is becoming increasingly popular (just ask Optimizely). So whether you're a big brand like Yahoo or a startup, welcome to the new world of design, where hundreds of design ideas can be generated in days and tested in hours, where opinions mean little and data makes the decisions.

If Yahoo is A/Z testing their logo then, in my opinion, they deserve praise not criticism for taking an innovative, super-analytical and even cool approach to their rebranding. If they’re not testing, then they deserve to be panned for an odd campaign. Either way, with a few days left before Yahoo reveals its new (best-performing?) logo, time will tell if this approach yields a great logo or an epic face palm.

--Alec Lynch is the founder and CEO of DesignCrowd, a design crowdsourcing service that recently hosted a competition to redesign Yahoo's logo.

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37 Comments

  • Guest

    The logos they presented in the 30 days look like they were produced in haste, and are far from being exciting, memorable. If they want to show they don’t care about professionalism, then they have done a good job

  • Raj Panjwani

    Yahoo aren't testing a logo they're testing fonts. They're looking at each individual element in a silo, like font and colour and haven't considered the meaning of the whole. Branding is the whole, everything... the logo is only a tiny part and it's become a much smaller part over the last 20 years. It's quite apt really since it mimics Yahoo's approach to everything else they've done... so actually it's a brilliant rebrand!

    I just read Marsissa Meyer's blog post on how they went about it and it sounds like a parody. "On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator.  I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made.  I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)". Doh!

    The one they're using looks like a cosmetic brand.

  • Jef Tan

    As it turns out, the boss designed it herself with an intern using Optima from system fonts, over the weekend. She even thinks it's "dangerous". So yes. It is a marketing ploy and a waste of everybody's time. With the end result looking like I could design it with my eyes closed, it might be the biggest design anti-climax in history.

  • Gary Ludwig

    Paul Rand one said that he believed people considered the IBM logo to be a great logo because it is the logo of a great company. While they no doubt exist, you don't really hear much conversation along the lines of "great logo, crappy company". When a smart company does something as significant and noteworthy as changing its logo it normally heralds a fundamental change in the nature, direction, vision, etc. of the enterprise. A new symbol for a new enterprise, if you will. This is just a different graphic design. If the old logo stood for irrelevance, then in short order the new one will, too. Smart companies don't change their logo unless and until they have already made other changes to the company that are worth drawing attention to. Yahoo! doesn't seem to have reached that bar. This just makes it look like they have too much time on their hands.

  • Steve Kravitz

    You don't hear "Great logo, crappy company" because if it's not a great company, you don't know about them in the first place.  If you are implying by your post that Yahoo is a "smart company [doing] something as significant and noteworthy as changing its logo..."  sorry, I don't agree.  If Yahoo's metrics were trending upward, if their sales increased, if they just stopped hemorrhaging market share, then - and only they - would it be "significant and noteworthy."  Now, it's just a different shade of lipstick for the pig, or moving those deck chairs around...

  • Jason Rose

    $200 to receive 244 comps for a company with a market capitalization of approximately $28,000,000,000. Awesome.

    Maybe even more ironic is that some of the typeface families used in those designs retail for two or three times the award.

  • ToniKroos

    In this one im with Jobs, you need to satisfy your costumer but in things like branding, if you dont know what your brand is then you will never have a strong brand. For sure not even the employees know the brand. Apple worked hard on their brand mainly for their employees and then outward

  • Rorge Retson

    Hark!  What is that, I say?  Might it be chairs being rearranged on the deck of the Titanic?

  • C.Middleton

    Indy Guy is on to what those in communications would recommend... get the buzz going. The dialogue, even this article is shaping perception and perception is reality. Right now, Yahoo! is putting proof and momentum out there they are hungry and willing to shape themselves in a way that works. THAT is valuable, especially if they can make this type of conversation part of their new brand approach. Just putting official campaign name and launching it officially is where the "cheese" factor comes into play within the minds of consumers and overall cynicism settles in. 

    Testing and gaining feedback alone isn't he problem and is actually very good because you want your end user engaged and involved. That's what "social" is all about.  However, what seems to be missing is Yahoo! setting up an on-going dialogue as an integral part of their brand strategy and NOT as a one time tactic for a winning logo. Doing so is the bigger picture for brand... This exercise of a tactical approach vs. strategic repositioning represents the change in thinking/approach that is still needed in traditional marketing/communications across the board (so Yahoo! at least should get some credit for at least being willing to try). 

  • Meg

    "...is not a gimmicky marketing stunt but more likely a clever, innovative, data-driven rebranding." You can say that all you want, but at the end of the day, marketing and brand is how your customers perceive it. And this definitely falls under gimmicky, annoying, and a little bit of an identity crisis.

  • Roland Bernhard

    Not a great
    idea! Why? With good design it is like with love: it grows in you over time. Love
    is different from a short infatuation. So showing a logo design for one day
    only does not say if it has a lasting impact over time, if it is on brand and
    on strategy. It might be simply the “loudest” and get worn out after a few
    weeks, while a more subtle solution becomes more impactful every week.  Additionally: Re-branding contains far more
    than design!

  • DwDunphy

    For heaven's sake, can someone please tell me one product -- real...actual...qualitative...product -- Yahoo has recently made? Anything? An app that reproduces fly noises? A gallery of old peanut butter company labels? A yodeling paperweight? Enough with the slight-of-hand! You're showing me yards and yards of typography when I want to see some actual productivity. This diversion is more than a little infuriating. All style, zero substance, and judging by the laissez faire attitude, no real interest in substance.

  • Redpilleater

    Every logo so far has been uninspiring garbage on Yahoo's site. That's what you get for $200. Not one of these crowd-sourcing rebranding stunts has been successful in the past (Remember GAP? http://www.forbes.com/sites/ve... Yahoo isn't able to make real design decisions internally and crowdsourcing and data driven design takes the risk factor out of the equation. If you're not willing to take real chances you will never create anything unique and groundbreaking (iPad, Google Glass, Model S etc..) and for a company that's trying to reinvent itself as innovative and once again legitimate this just looks like the cowards way out. Is this how Yahoo! will create new products in the future with contests and focus groups?   

  • Ike Pigott

    What you, as the author, and what the rest of you, as commenters, do NOT know fills volumes.

    Unless you know what Yahoo's objective is, you have no basis for determining success. Period.

    For all we know, the "30 days" gimmick was simply to allow Yahoo! to consolidate and simplify the brand iconography. The only things those spec logos have in common were the capital Y, the !, and that shade of purple. (Which wouldn't be a bad idea, actually, giving the company more flexibility and originality around the core instead of a fixed lockup.)

  • Chanthani Satjatham

    It's definitely hard for designers to think that this data-driven rebranding is a clever and innovative approach. It's definitely cost-effective and time-efficient for Marissa Mayer; which then perhaps, a clever way to resolve issues above the million things they had to do to revive. 

    People who see the logos daily are Yahoo users, thus they are the so-called core focus group for A/B testing. Yahoo cuts off the brand experts to directly reach out to users to request for users (crowdsourced designers) to design for users, and then judged by all.
    This seems the most analytically logical approach for a client whose core values in technology is driven, proven and quantified by data. And, in this perspective, they are staying true to how they go about doing things, even in this rebranding exercise.

    And, even if the logo should be less appealing than the old, it is not a major rebranding disaster that costed a million dollars, and not a lot of time is wasted on their end. Look forward to see their final look before making a judgment if it had been a qualifying solution to branding design needs.

  • eknirb

    "with two weeks left before Yahoo reveals its new (best-performing?) logo"um, it's September 5th.  Thursday.  

  • Mark Bratton

    What’s been covered so far speaks for me as well:  BAD IDEA.

    What brought me to this page was a hunt for any idea as to whether
    Yahoo was LISTENING to ANY of it’s users; specifically, the e-mail clients.

    I can almost find NOTHING positive on the Internet about the
    “new” Yahoo e-mail. So, it’s not just me, a PAYING client since 1997.

     I almost went with a
    completely different system, which would have thoroughly damaged my outreach to
    hundreds of clients, businesses & people, ALL of which helps grow my brand.

    Luckily, I stumbled across a web page that told readers how
    to disable the javascript on our webrowsers to unchain the idiotic drop menu
    that Yahoo had shackled us with.  I can
    now use the right click features I’ve used for my entire web browsing career,
    as opposed to what this idiot CEO decided to “grant” us without our consent.

    Quite honestly, Mayer’s brand meddling will not just set the
    company back, but her gender as well. 
    How “typical” is it for a woman to come into a newly bought home and
    want to spend money [needlessly] to buy a whole new kitchen, just because she
    wants HER “name” on it, & not the prior owner’s? 

    This move bolsters the male perspective that, no matter how “savvy”
    a woman may pan out in a male dominated forum, she’s still got to be a “woman”
    & move the furniture the moment everyone’s used to the way the living room
    is set up.

    Isn’t this JUST what she’s doing to Yahoo’s brand? Nike went
    with the “swoosh” & McDonald’s went with an “M” in their trademark logo
    design because their brands are legendarily iconic & can withstand the
    elimination of the verbiage.  But Yahoo
    can’t afford to toy with alienating ANY semblance of familiarity at this point
    with Google DOMINATING in their market for this long.  And with Google Glass on the horizon, are you
    KIDDING, Marissa? 

    Redecorate your office or something, Love…not the company.