Yahoo! Needs a Real Vision


So Yahoo!'s got a new ad campaign, and apparently a new vision:

Yahoo!: "To be the center of people's online lives."

Wow, does that suck. It's neither visionary, nor inspiring and to me, really expresses more of a selfish desire on Yahoo!'s part to control your life, rather than a statement of what they wish to accomplish as a company. I've bitched before about Yahoo's corporate mentality and lack of real mission that doesn't have a bunch of corporate jargon in it, but this is a real step backwards.

Let's look at some of the other really great mission and vision statements (which are sorta different and sorta the same), starting with one of the best:

Microsoft: "A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software."

During the early 80s, when many people couldn't understand why anyone would want to have a computer in the house besides storing cooking recipes, this was quite the visionary statement, which by the way, turned out to be true.

Another one:

Google: "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Doesn't that express a real purpose and clarity? And honestly, at first, it seemed to be just rhetoric didn't it? Then Google started freakin' scanning every book that exists and driving around taking a picture of every street in the world and you get the idea they're serious.

Here's another great one:

Nokia: "Connecting People."

Yep, my current employer Nokia has a fantastic vision, which is also so short it can be used as a logo tagline as well. They're mucking around with it lately, but the core vision is still pretty awesome - if you think of all the people in the world, and what it would take to connect them all (say producing a billion phones a year), it's quite a great corporate goal.

Some other good ones:

eBay: "To provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything."

Adobe: "To revolutionize how the world engages with ideas and information."

These are pretty big ideas, no?

Now, not all companies have great visions. I have no idea (and can't really find) what Apple's is, Facebook's is pretty lame (a "social utility"?) and Twitter's is like 42 characters too long for their own service.

But to me, if you want to rally your employees, keep them focused as well as telling the world (i.e. your customers) what you're really about - you need a really clear, inspiring vision. A mantra. Something that is both a goal and a litmus test on your work. Something that tells everyone what it is you're doing and why.

Thus if I was Yahoo!, I would change the vision to something much more clear, compelling yet simple:

Yahoo!: "To be the most useful service on Earth."

That to me is the core of what Yahoo! is, and what it is trying to be, but can't seem to ever express in words. What does "useful" mean? I don't know, what does it mean to you? It means different things to different people - which is actually *perfect* for Yahoo!'s customers, as people use it for different things. I still use it for news, weather, mail and IM. Others use it for games and entertainment. Others only use it's sub brands like Flickr, Upcoming or Delicious. Many sites use their APIs, and even more use their display advertising services. And for hundreds of millions, Yahoo! is still their preferred home page.

"Useful." It's a wonderfully positive word. Simple, clear. It tells customers what they're there for (because it's useful, dammit), and tells employees what they should be doing with their time (creating useful services, dammit).

The word "Most" is where the mantra comes in. It's one thing for a web service to be useful. It's another for it to be the MOST useful. It's a test for every product, every feature, every service that Yahoo! offers today and in the future. "Is this the most useful service on Earth?" This is something that would desperately help Yahoo!'s continually bogged down bureaucratic culture get some things done.

Anyways, that's just my thoughts. Let's see how their new "Y!ou" campaign goes... it's slick, but I can't say I see much benefit from it.


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