What it took to rebrand the Yahoo7 business
- 04 February, 2019 09:56
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.”
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.”
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.
Up next: Havercroft's last three lessons in building a local B2B marketing brand off global roots
Get close and personal with global
The marketing function, meanwhile, needed to better integrate and collaborate with global counterparts. At the same time, local marketers had a steep learning curve getting their heads around distinctive B2B and B2C brand messaging and approaches.
What helped is a very clear company strategy from the top, led by the managing director. Work was also embraced as a professional development opportunity, particularly when it came to internal rebrand work.
“It’s not just looking at external customers and actions, but taking an internal audience through the whole journey,” Havercroft said. “We also did a lot of collaboration work with our global counterparts, more than we have ever done previously. That was part of becoming a 100 per cent wholly owned business, instead of servicing two shareholders.”
In addition, striking the balance between BAU and growth was vital. “This is a job on its own and we had our own day jobs. You have to keep BAU going as it is key to delivering against goals, targets and so on,” Havercroft said.
“One of the biggest lessons for me was around how to maintain momentum while changing the name of the business. It was so important we got organised early in the year on the plans from a consumer perspective… so that could just roll through as we worked on the rebrand.”
One of these was Yahoo Finance’s first-ever consumer campaign in 2018, entitled ‘Making money work’. The digital and out-of-home activity helped retain momentum around the brand with customers.
“We could show customers it was BAU, and we could show the growth in our consumer brands. Yahoo Finance has gone from 10th to sixth position in the last 6-9 months [based on Nielsen data] as result of this investment behind it,” Havercroft said. “They’re seeing the proof points as well as the rollout of the new business name.”
Mixing big brand thinking with tactical executions
With the rebrand unveiled in January, Havercroft’s next step is an industry initiative supporting young marketing and agency talent through training and recognition. Launching over coming weeks, the program will ask senior leaders to nominate their top 10 per cent of talent, and see Verizon Media Business supplying training programs to build their professional credentials.
“This is about refocusing our position as building brand, people and love and customer professional brands,” Havercroft said.
“We have other business-focused initiatives we will take to market in Q2 and Q3, where we’ll be talking about our editorial and adtech solutions more. That’s more of a product and editorial story, as opposed to industry-wide training initiative. So we’re mixing long-term brand building with shorter-term opportunities.”
Havercroft’s main measures of brand success include Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction, which help showcase perceptions of Verizon Media Business and its consumer brands against the rest of the market.
“We will have commercial results we’ll review as well. That combination helps show levels of success,” she said, “The feedback since launch has been overwhelmingly positive, so we know the message has resonated and landed with customers. It’s important now to build and have consistency through the next long while.”
Knowing as CMO when to lead and when to wait
Of course, as a local marketing leader of a global brand, there’s an element of unknown and things Havercroft can’t control.
“Where you are a lead marketer in a country and you’re plugged into a global system, there are things you have to just wait and see on that our out of your control; then there are things to shape and make your own. It’s experience and wisdom to know which one you need at any given time,” she commented.
“The media landscape is interesting both globally and in Australia. Sometimes you have to wait and see what comes down the pipeline, then make calls and decisions based on what is best for your company, people and customers locally.
“Sometimes you wish you have more input, but that’s not my role. My role is localising it and making things work in Australia. It’s an interesting journey but also the wonderful thing about being part of a global business – the things you can control, and the things you have to live with.
“And it’s about standing up for the things important to your market… the global approach has to try and fit everything and everyone somehow. It’s the lowest common denominator. That’s where we then get to use our magic by turning something global, and potentially generic, into something interesting, engaging and compelling for our market.
“My job is to sprinkle that gold dust and make it compelling.”
Check out more of our rebrand stories:
- CMO interview: Spearheading the global rebranding of OFX
- Nova CMO on the radio group's rebranding strategy
- Why companies shoudl consider rebranding after acquisition
- AUB Group CMO's 5 tips for a successful rebranding strategy
- How MYOB's marketing leader is repositioning the brand strategy