What it took to rebrand the Yahoo7 business

We talk to the marketing leader in charge of delivering the Verizon Media Business B2B and B2C rebrand in Australia

Anny Havercroft
Anny Havercroft


It was a rebrand challenge two-a-half years and one arguably large misstep in the making.

Following the acquisitions of AOL in 2015 and Yahoo in July 2016, US-based telco giant, Verizon, set out on a mission to unify and rebrand its media, adtech and Internet properties as one global offering. The resulting umbrella entity, Oath, was officially unveiled in June 2017 at Cannes.

Just 18 months later, the group ditched the Oath name, announcing in December it would rebrand under the more straightforward moniker, Verizon Media Business, from 9 January. Division head, Guru Gowrappan, described the move as reflecting its “strong alignment as a core pillar of Verizon’s business”. It’s also one most industry pundits agree is much more self-explanatory than the wayward ‘Oath’.

While all this was occurring, the Australian and New Zealand team was working through a business and brand evolution all of their own. Locally, Yahoo had been represented as Yahoo7, a joint venture between its former parent company and Seven West Media. In March, Oath fully acquired Yahoo7 in March 2018, taking full control of the Yahoo B2C and B2B offering. It was this deal that paved the way for a launch and brand overhaul locally.  

Following the official local debut last November of Oath, overseen by managing director, Paul Sigaloff, the A/NZ media and adtech business has rebranded its B2B offering to Verizon Media Business in January to follow global suit. This B2B entity is connected to a house of longstanding consumer-facing digital media brands including Yahoo, AOL, HuffPost, TechCrunch and Tumblr.  

Leading B2B and B2C brand work locally is Oath A/NZ director of brand and marketing, Anny Havercroft.

“This was a fantastic opportunity to have consistency in our communications and messaging,” she told CMO, noting the B2B and B2C businesses are all built on the brand proposition of ‘building brands, people, love’.

“Verizon Media Business as we’re known today is a house of brands, from Yahoo, our consumer-facing brand including Yahoo Sports, Finance, News and Lifestyle. Then you have AOL… Techcrunch and Tumblr. Those consumer-facing brands live on and it’s business as usual.”

The more transformative task was the B2B rebrand. Over the past 12 months, Havercroft and her team have been working to make sure customers and consumers understand the transition of Yahoo7’s B2B business and respective offerings under a new single brand.

Plotting the narrative

Being plugged into the global machine of Verizon Media Business inevitably means work starts globally, Havercroft said.

“My role in A/NZ is to make it relevant to our customers and consumers locally, and translate global positioning and speak into something that actually means something and resonates locally. That’s my job as CMO,” she said.  

“We needed to get a lot of global insight and information upfront. We were getting a lot of the guidelines, strategy, and key messages then sifting through to make sure it made sense for A/NZ customers and how it impacts how we market to consumers.

“The wonderful thing is the global position works – it’s about building brand, people, love. That talks to us supporting our consumer brands, and it also means we can talk to our customers in a multi-faceted way. This can be so many different things, from people being our consumers to our employees and end customers.”

Indeed, one rebranding lesson for Havercroft is the importance of knowing right at the beginning where the journey is going and what the narrative looks like, then sharing that with both internal and external stakeholders to take them on the journey as the company changed.

“Well before the time of the joint venture closing we knew we were becoming Verizon Media,” she said.  “I think marketing is perfectly positioned to be the champion of the brand communications both internally and externally, to smooth the potentially bumpy ride of a rebrand.”

Consumer insight

Havercroft and the team also needed to take stock of the legacy technology business as a digital media brand house as well as what consumers brands stood for.

“HuffPost is active politically and both socially and environmentally aware, and has passionate followers as we’re participating in cultural conversations. Getting to the crux of consumer brands, and what they stand for - which taps right into culture - then fusing that with our technology heritage as a business so we can build brand, people love through our culture and code, is the job,” she explained. “That was the message we pulled from global and the localisation element we brought to it.”  

Pre-emptive brand awareness

Another aspect to consider in the Australian market was market attitudes around Verizon as a brand and business. What Havercroft found was Verizon held a lot of resonance locally despite lacking a consumer footprint.

“Verizon was understood to be a US telco, and a global player, even though it wasn’t a major consumer-facing business in Australia,” she said. “In my discovery, I found Verizon has a massive B2B business here, working with the likes of Telstra, telcos and technology providers. There’s a strong footprint consumers wouldn’t know about.”

Knowing the B2B business would be known as Verizon Media Business by January, the next part of the job was foreshadowing what was ahead with customers before it arrived.

“While we were doing the planning, we were taking customers through the journey via conversations, sharing what was happening, what was ahead and giving them a taste of the opportunities and positioning of what we were going to become,” Havercroft said.

“This was opposed to a big reveal. So our brand work started well before day zero of our official relaunch. By the time the branding rolled through and we showcased our go-to-market messaging, customers were familiar with it.”

Winning over sales

Throughout this process, sales have been the biggest brand advocates. The ‘building brands, people and love’ proved a galvanising message to take to market, Havercroft said.

“Once we had a plan for strategy, we needed to focus on getting sales team educated, engaged and empowered to be our advocates and amplify that message,” Havercroft said. “It’s one thing to see a brand, but having people following through, talking the same language, sharing the approach and using a consistent tone of voice, enhances everything we did.

“That involved a lot of training, as well as rebranding collateral to get that team to buy into it. Our new vision got the sales team engaged and we pulled that through to personal goals.”

Read more: Why sales and marketing alignment is more important than ever

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Tailored customer communications

At the customer level, a key ingredient of communication was a roadshow, and Verizon Media Business tailored the approach depending on the customer. For example, intimate meetings were held with senior customer leaders, while with more junior-level customers, practical and pragmatic information on what this meant to partner and transact with Verizon on a day-to-day basis was key.  

One influential part of the narrative was sharing the investments made into editorial locally, such as those at Yahoo Finance.

“On the adtech layer, we have benefitted from globalisation of different technology under the one platform. For customers, the early message was Oath as a platform is all you need for native advertising, DSP, and so on,” Havercroft said. “The acquisitions have seen us streamline technology solutions into a one-top-shop. That’s the main evolution.

“The story is elevated mastheads and technology and scale. And that’s a nice narrative to layout. I was taken with how staff embraced all of that in sales and professional development too.”

Another major stakeholder was the editorial team, who proved just as powerful advocates as sales, Havercroft said.

“We took our Yahoo finance editorial chief out on our commercial client roadshow, to help talk about the wins for our editorial brands, which helped link in people and the roadmap and opportunity to jump onboard with brand. We had fantastic results and feedback from doing that main roadshow. That made the brand real,” she said.  

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