Yahoo’s Brand Universe Strategy

I don't get it. Now, that doesn't mean it's not brilliant. I mean, in 1996, I told my fellow senior managers at Wired that the world didn't need another search engine (we started Hotbot anyway and I'm pretty sure that's the main reason Lycos bout HotWired). From GigaOm's coverage…

Yahoo Wii

I don’t get it.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not brilliant. I mean, in 1996, I told my fellow senior managers at Wired that the world didn’t need another search engine (we started Hotbot anyway and I’m pretty sure that’s the main reason Lycos bout HotWired).

From GigaOm’s coverage of Yahoo’s media day:

Throughout presentations from the Yahoo Media Group, a part of the new “Audience” division, the key word, uttered more times than we could count, was “promotions.” And so, in both overt and subtle fashion, Yahoo is a company transitioning itself into what’s essentially a marketing platform…..

The most obvious example of Yahoo’s increasing bent towards marketing is its new “Brand Universe” initiative, announced in November. The company will tie together its disjointed properties — such as search, groups, Flickr, Answers, avatars — to lead back to pages about a certain pop culture topic — for instance, Nintendo’s Wii.

..Yahoo says it will launch 100 such pages by year’s end; next up are the Sims, Halo, Lost, the Office, Transformers, and Harry Potter.

It feels off in some way, but exactly how has not struck me yet. Also, the new person who comes in to run the Audience group – a person not yet hired – might not like this idea. Then again, there is something to it that strikes me as an accurate read of today’s culture – brands are the new water coolers. Hmmm.

The Yahoo Wii page. More coming soon….

10 thoughts on “Yahoo’s Brand Universe Strategy”

  1. How do you not get it? Or are you just playing coy?

    Take a look at the top search terms on yahoo. They are all brands or popular people. If yahoo can create a destination and a community around these people and brands, don’t they get to serve a lot more impressions to targeted demographics? Then, there’s merchandise, events, and all kinds of revenue generating possibilities.

    This isn’t much different than Myspace’s branded profile pages or the micro-blog-sites that you are putting together for FM clients like Best Buy.

    I think this is a very smart move for yahoo. If they can build these sites quickly and little cost to maintain and sell high CPM ads, this should be a runaway hit.

  2. First of all, I don’t think the Brand Universe move is a strategy, but a tactic. It’s a tactic within Yahoo’s strategy to become a better infomediary. Right now, the Y! network is a chaotic sea of content. These Brand Universes are an attempt to establish order around things that people are passionate about. Smart move. Whether it succeeds or not, it shows Y! is serious about finding creative solutions to the sprawling labyrinth that is currently their content network.

  3. These are just category pages (or topic pages), an age-old concept in Web design: have a single page that pulls together the main points on your site about something. Could be laptops or citrus fruits on an e-commerce site, or the “Times Topics” on the New York Times. ( has specialized starting pages about, for example, “Unemployment,” “University of Oregon,” and “Uruguay” to pick a few of their Us.)

    Concentrated topic pages are good for SEO, because they become a target for links for that keyword. They are also good for navigation, because they give users a single place to get an overview of the site’s treatment of that topic. (Assuming, of course, that the topics are chosen to correspond to the users’ interests.)

    Seems like a good move by Yahoo.

  4. I really like the idea. Commerce-centric Media is exactly the direction Yahoo should be headed. It gives them access to the most commercially valuable piece of the “database of intention” and they can do so without gaining a lick of market share in search.

    Scoble is right, the path for Microsoft and Yahoo isn’t to take Google on in a battle for search market share. The path is to ‘flank’ the Big G. The Brand Universe concept could morph into an interesting way to take little cuts of the ‘big head’ of the search honey pot. One way (of many) to look at Google’s strength is that it has become the last stop prior to an online action or transaction. If Yahoo can leverage its strengths in Community, Media and Marketing to insert itself into the middle then it can slowly start to chip away at Google’s ad revenue. Instead of the user going from Google —> to Purchase the wii, the consumer would go from Big G —–> Yahoo Brand Page ——> Purchase. It has interesting potential.

  5. Very recently, I wrote 4C: Yahoo’s Turnaround Formula, criticizing them for having haphazard offerings with no segmentation.

    This announcement addresses some of my points, in that they are actually tying together various disjointed and haphazard properties around a particular brand, and creating an integrated experience.

    I like it.

  6. Jakob Nielsen said “Seems like a good move”.

    I agree — and of course such types of pages are also good as “points of entry” for so-called “direct navigation”.

  7. Branding2.0 – thats good. I wonder if that will catch on…

    Yahoo!’s acquisition’s and moves always make me smile – they seem to be a “hip-kid mixed with an old-time glossy hollywood producer;” and thats exactly what main-stream media lovers love… today.

    I am not too sure it will continue to be this way as the long-tail thrives, and micro-niches (even brand categories) become more and more taken over by actual *people* – authoritative figure heads. They influence my world way more than any of the big infomediaries, and my demographic is rapidly increasing in strength and purchasing power.

    Smart business moves for now, it’ll be fun to watch it all unfold. I love it.

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