Branding Sin – No Brand Champion at the Helm

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you need a Brand Champion to lead the charge. Yahoo is a prime example of what happens when there is no one at the helm. Let’s take a look at Yahoo’s shortcomings in the early 2000s.


Between 2001 and 2012, Yahoo had five different CEOs that failed to provide consistent leadership and direction, thus lacking a true Brand Champion. In the decade before their new CEO arrived, Yahoo was plagued by missed opportunities and poor execution. Before their downward spiral, Yahoo’s stocks closed at an all-time high of $118.75 on January 3, 2000 under CEO Terry Semel. After the dotcom bust, Yahoo hit rock bottom and their stock prices were at the lowest of low on September 26, 2001, coming in at $8.11. OUCH! All companies experienced difficult times during the bust but in the following years, when things started to level off and get better for companies of all types, Yahoo was still struggling, floundering around without consistent leadership in the form of a Brand Champion.

I don’t think a lot of companies realize just how important it is to have a Brand Champion at the helm.  Brand Champions are so crucial to your organization because not only do they lead the company, but they also position the company in their space, define their value points, and map out the desired brand experience. Many leaders and companies think their only job is defining the brand strategy and “doing what they do” – manufacturing widgets, selling a service, or selling and delivering a product or service in-store or online. These days, it’s way more than just that and it truly is a branding sin to not understand how important your brand is.  Even more so, to not have a Brand Champion at the helm defining, developing, and delivering upon that brand and utilizing it to help you achieve your goals and objectives is the true sin.

One of the biggest mistakes that Yahoo made was not realizing how important a Brand Champion was to understand the brand and how to evolve and take it to the next level. Brand Champions aren’t just good at what they do, they are good at seeing what the market needs and how to package what they do to appeal to that market.

Yahoo not only needed a leader, but they needed a Brand Champion to help them find out what made them not only an email provider and a search engine, but what would evolve them into a content provider. More importantly, Yahoo needed to provide a brand experience that would draw people in, connect with them, and build a relationship for life. This type of relationship needed to evolve and grow as the brand and site were continuing to grow and expand, providing more services to meet more of their customers’ needs. It wasn’t until July of 2012 when Yahoo brought in a new CEO and Brand Champion, Marissa Mayer, who had a vision of what Yahoo needed to look like and how they needed to change and evolve as a company and brand to get back on track.

What Yahoo got when they brought in Mayer was someone who not only understood technology, but understood how to champion a brand and make it come alive internally and externally. Mayer brought energy, passion, optimism, revitalization, direction, and results that brought hope to the Yahoo team and renewed the faith from Wall Street. In her first year as CEO, stock prices skyrocketed 73% and have held relatively steady around $35 per share.  Also in her first year as CEO, Yahoo acquired the photo blogging site, Tumblr, for $1.1 billion and Mayer lead the charge to redesign Flicker. Since Mayer has taken the reins, she has converted many people, customers, and investors into believing in the power of a Brand Champion and Yahoo itself.


Make sure you’re not just doing what you have to do to run your company or organization because in the end, it isn’t enough.  By doing this, you are committing one of the biggest branding sins…not having a Brand Champion at the helm. Understand what you need to develop and drive the brand to become reality, position you and your company to attain the goals and objectives you dream of achieving. Lay out a plan today to start championing your brand, it’s time to take action and see the results of your hard work and effort and see what you can accomplish with and for your company, stakeholders, family and yourself!


Leave a Reply