Categorized | happenings

Would Y!ou Y!odel for Y!ahoo?

Everything about Yahoo!’s new Y!ou advertising initiative (to which they’re devoting $100 million dollars) always seems to be just shy of the bulleseye — and by just shy, I mean several feet away, starting with the tagline of the whole kaboodle, “Y!ou,” with the exclamation point after the “Y” (taglines don’t work if you really have to think about them to make sense, so this tagline really looks like this to most viewers: “Y?ou”).

Now Yahoo! is trying to gin up some crowdsourcing-social networking-viral marketing-guerilla marketing mojo by staging a national yodeling contest, with the winner featured on Yahoo!’s home page. With yodeling studios set up in New York, London, and Mumbai, Yahoo! is inviting folks like you and me to stop in and record Yahoo!’s yodel or, if you can’t make it to Mumbai by November 8, to tape it at home and send it in.

Helpfully, Wylie Gustafson has a helpful tutorial on YouTube:


Everything just seems right on this viral campaign if it weren’t, well, so wrong.

Since even the smallest business has to think about esoterica like social networking, crowdsourcing, and viral marketing, let’s do a quick run-down of what Yahoo! is doing right with the yodel-yourself campaign it’s running.

  • It’s genuinely interactive and gives people a chance to appear in national media.
  • It’s generous — rather than use customers, it’s reimbursing them by contributing up to $130,000 to charity for each entry submitted. So what the customer loses in dignity, they make up for in good works.
  • It’s star-studded — the yodeling studio they’re setting up in New York will have singers Jewel, Lee Ann Rimes, Pete Wentz and Randy Jackson on hand to help falsetto-challenged (and self-dignity challenged) participants with their yodeling (Randy Jackson and Pete Wentz can yodel?), in London, it’s Pixie Lott and Sinnitta (I’d show up), and in Mumbai, it’s Shankar Mahadevan, VJ Nikhil Chinappa, and Shaa’ir + Func (a yodeling of a very, very different kind).
  • It’s participatory — of course, I’m getting tired of fan voting for this, that, and the other thing, and soon most of the rest of the world will, too.

    But — and I may be wrong here — it’s, well, yodeling. The base concept doesn’t connect with most of the rest of us; in fact, it’s a big disconnect for all those who superciliously (and supersillyously) think yodeling is silly or something that only happens in a Ricola commercial. And to bring home that point, since Yahoo! made the announcement two days ago, the mainstream press has pretty much ignored it. Since a very large component of a guerilla, viral, or crowdsourced campaign (especially one where you’re encouraging people to get online and vote) is free publicity, the Yahoo! yodeling contest is a pretty flat glass of beer.

    People are responding to the Yahoo! yodeling contest with a collective yawn.

    There’s a lesson in there for all of us chomping at the guerrilla marketing or crowdsourcing bit — it’s possible to get everything right, but miss with the core concept. The base concept itself needs to connect with the largest possible audience, needs to fire people up across all walks of life and all interests to truly go viral and snag truly impressive press play.

    Now, of course, I’m being totally hypocritical here. If I was in New York, you bet I’d show up the day Lee Ann Rimes or Jewel were doing the yodeling coaching. I’d even yodel in the yodel studio for them. But that’s a horse of a different color.

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