SAN FRANCISCO -- Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman says his company is ready for a "brand renaissance." Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom conference here today, Goldman indicated that Yahoo will invest in marketing to help increase user engagement and boost the company's international audience, as well as broaden its demographic base. "We are saving money and reapplying it to other areas...so we are going to invest in development and marketing to grow the company," he said. Goldman didn't offer any details on how Yahoo would market itself or when.
What's apparent is that CEO Marissa Mayer is trying to implement a step-by-step plan to make Yahoo more worthy of a marketing campaign.
She started with a re-energizing Yahoo's workplace -- springing for free food and the latest smartphones -- and implementing more discipline in product development and accountability among the staff.
The effort to improve team spirit and effectiveness now includes an upcoming and controversial ban on telecommuting. The speculation is that Mayer wants people physically in the Yahoo hive to increase collaboration and productivity, with the related impact of weeding out those who care more about working from home than working for Yahoo. "This isn't a broad industry view on working from home," Yahoo said in a statement sent to CNET and other media outlets. "This is about what is right for Yahoo right now." The ban could prove to be a less permanent measure designed to reset the parameters of a work-from-home policy.
Goldman offered a very rosy picture of the new Yahoo, which he joined in October. "See what the parking lots look like at 7 or 8 o'clock. It's full. The excitement and interest level and engagement is off the charts," he said. "The most important thing is people feel strong leadership. It gives people confidence in doing things and making decisions. We are seeing the pace of innovation improve and doing things much faster than before."
He added, "Before it would be hard to hire people or acquire companies. It was a negative perception coming to Yahoo. The new people coming in are dramatically different today than a year or two ago. Before that we had to pay a premium to acquire a company."
The improved morale and staffing needs to result in more and faster innovation, of course. So far, Yahoo's product innovation consists of updating existing properties, such as Flickr, Mail, and the Yahoo home page. The refresh of those properties may increase user engagement, but Yahoo has a long way to go to have a financial renaissance. "Clearly, everyone knows that mobile and video are absolute core to what's going on today," Goldman said. "Mobile will be tremendous, combining localization and personalization, creating ads specific to mobile users. Video is a problem. We are sold out, so we need more products and video."
The company is investing significant resources in a separate mobile team to seize the opportunity and deliver more personalized content and ads. "We have 200 million unique mobile subscribers, but we have a lot more to do to make more continuity between the brand and how people access our products," Goldman said. "The opportunity is greater in mobile. We will have to see if this comes to pass."