Marissa Mayer was the emcee of her own keynote presentation at CES on Tuesday, deflecting the spotlight from her and onto the key people leading some of the changes at Yahoo. A packed theatre at CES welcomed the hour-long advertisement from the Yahoo CEO because, well, it was interesting and entertaining. It was about the most important people: us.
Whether it was David Pogue, the new vp of content, unveiling the Yahoo Tech digital magazine or Katie Couric, the new global anchor for Yahoo, talking about the importance of trust-worthy journalism, Mayer made sure the key takeaway for stockholders (and us) was that Yahoo was innovating, pivoting and rejiggering for none other than us. Yahoo is a platform customizable to your habits, so much so that it just acquired a service called Aviate that predicts which apps you’ll need at any given moment and moves them to your homescreen (we don’t have time anymore to swipe to the next screen).
The CES audience, which comprises what Pogue called "the Geekheads" versus 85 percent of everyone else, “the Normals”, wanted to hear what Yahoo has done to become relevant again and what it will do to become more useful. As is evident in the 3,200+ exhibits at CES this year, technology is complex and the choices for how we spend our time are abundant. Yahoo and other brand leaders are answering the call to give us what we want when we want it.
Mayer’s goal could mirror most brands’: to turn “complexity into clarity.” For Yahoo that means focusing on four key areas: Search, Communications, Digital Magazines (mini-sites, not actual magazines) and Video. Its acquisition of Flickr and Tumblr validate what we already know to be true: that photos and storytelling are the future, and most likely on your mobile device. Its hiring of Katie Couric sent a message to its community that a quality interview requires a great interviewer. A few SNL "Weekly Update" cast members, plus a John Legend mini-concert—all during Mayer’s keynote—were crafted to showcase Yahoo’s coolness.
Mayer and her cohort of presenters representing Yahoo wanted us to know that personalization and simplification are what we should expect from this media brand starting now. It should get many marketers and media companies thinking the same thing about their brands. The challenge is that being simple is not so simple.