Yahoo!'s Logo Critics Are Off Base

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you haven't been tracking it, Yahoo! ( YHOO) has been doing a pretty neat form of stealth marketing over the past month. It has turned a strategic action -- replacing the old logo with a new one -- into a marketing event.

It has unveiled one logo a day for the past month and told folks it would announce its pick for the new logo earlier this week.

Yahoo! did -- and the Twitterverse unleashed its fury against the pick.

Now, Twitter always seems to attract critics, jokes and lots of snark. So, it's not a surprise that the same happened here.

Here are some of the more recent comments from my Yahoo! Twitter stream:
  • "Am I missing something with the new logo? So boring!"
  • "This new Yahoo! logo is a game-changer" (That was sarcastic!)
  • "Please redesign the new redesigned logo!"

And it's not just the "Man on the Tweet" opining. Megan McArdle of Bloomberg View complained loudly that CEO Marissa Mayer shouldn't spend a minute worrying about something as inconsequential as a logo:
...if your CEO is spending the weekend designing a new logo for your multibillion-dollar business, you're doing it wrong. Maybe this is supposed to be a sign that she's involved in every aspect of the company, but what this actually denotes is someone who can't delegate or prioritize. Even if you think that Yahoo! needed a new logo, on the list of problems the company needs to fix, this ranked somewhere between "Rejigger vacation schedules" and "Get the third floor coffee maker fixed." If Marissa Meyer sic is going to work weekends, her attention should be fixed higher on the list, on items like "find a business model that isn't in slow-but-inexorable decline.

The problem with marketing in general and logos specifically is that everyone's a critic. Oh, I like that. Oh, I don't like that.

I remember when I worked for a software company during the Bubble 1.0. We spent a lot of money (to us at the time) for a branding company to redesign our logo. They presented it in our corporate boardroom and then asked all employees to come through to see it.

All the engineers looked at it and said: "That's it? How much did we pay someone to do that? I could have done that myself."

No one ever calls in the company to the corporate boardroom to look at code people have written or legal documents the General Counsel has drafted. No one complains about a sales guy: "Oh, he closed them? Big deal. I could have done that."

Marketing folks are like artists. Like artists, their work inspires lots of ribbing, criticism and sometimes praise.

Oh, and people on Twitter do not like change. You throw a new logo out there and it's bound to provoke these catcalls.

I'm not going to tell you the six things that make this new logo better than the old logo. When Mayer says: "Serifs were a big part of our old logo. It felt wrong to give them up altogether so we went for a sans serif font with 'scallops' on the ends of the letters," I have to admit, I'm not really sure what she's talking about.

When Kathy Savitt, Yahoo!'s CMO, says "You'll notice a chisel to our logo that's very architectural. What we're saying is our logo is the foundation upon which our brand and products and user experience will continue to be built," I have to take her word for it.

I don't have a degree in or any experience with marketing.

But here's what I do know -- we're spending enormous time and energy here on these Web pages, on Twitter and the rest of the Web discussing Yahoo!. We've spent the last 30 days debating the merits of various logos that have been in the running.

As Oscar Wilde said, "It's better to be talked about than not talked about."

Do you know what other company changed its logo, four years ago? AOL ( AOL). Did you hear an outcry over it? No, you didn't hear anything about it because nobody cared about AOL.

People care about Yahoo!.

So, whether you like it or hate it, you're talking about it.

Remember, the bulk of Yahoo!'s 700 million users come from the heartland of America. They're "normal," as the over-caffeinated folks in New York and Silicon Valley like to say. Ninety-nine percent of them aren't paying attention to the folks tweeting about how much they don't like the new logo.

At the time of publication the author was long YHOO and AOL.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Eric Jackson is founder and Managing Member of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. In January 2007, Jackson started the world's first Internet-based campaign to increase shareholder value at Yahoo!, leading to a change in CEOs in 2007. He also spoke out in favor of Yahoo!'s accepting Microsoft's buyout offer in 2008. Global Proxy Watch named Jackson as one of its 10 "Stars" who positively influenced international corporate governance and shareowner value in 2007.

Prior to founding Ironfire Capital, Jackson was President and CEO of Jackson Leadership Systems, Inc., a leadership, strategy, and governance consulting firm. He completed his Ph.D. in the Management Department at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York, with a specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Governance, and holds a B.A. from McGill University.

He was previously Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at VoiceGenie Technologies, a software firm now owned by Alcatel-Lucent. In 2004, Jackson founded the Young Patrons' Circle at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which is now the second-largest social and philanthropic group of its kind in North America, raising $500,000 annually for the museum. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson.

You can contact Eric by emailing him at Dr.eric.jackson@me.com.

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