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?
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.
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.