Yahoo Needs a Lifeboat Not a Logo

 “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” has some new competition for phrase meaning pointless business activity at failing firm: “rearranging the fonts in your logo.”

"Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" has some new competition for phrase meaning pointless business activity at failing firm: "rearranging the fonts in your logo." Today, ending a futile "30 Days of Change" Web campaign, Yahoo announced "a new design it could live with," says PC Magazine. The rest of us can breathe a sigh of relief. No need to fear that the company will take its own life rather than suffer through the indignity of a malformed logo.

So, is it change we can believe in? The old and new are above this post, for easy viewing.

Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer has a lengthy post on Tumblr in which she describes the process of redesigning it:

On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it's one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I'm not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)

So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail.

We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo - whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Having a human touch, personal. Proud.

One hates to rain on this parade of graphical excitement, but what problem does this proud new logo solve? Quick: when was the last time you thought "I'd like to use Yahoo, but that logo is so ... yesterday"? Quick: When was the last time you thought about Yahoo's logo at all?

Yeah, me neither. Am I in any way more likely to use their service because they've got a sans serif logo? Hardly. In fact, I liked the old one much better. It had a certain homespun charm. The new one screams ... "Someone let the CEO play around with the logo in Adobe Illustrator."

There's nothing wrong with leaving your iconic logo alone. Coca-Cola would not be better off if it took its logo out of that fusty old script and replace it with something stripped down and modern. Starbucks doesn't need to change its green to chartreuse in order to keep up with the times. Rolls-Royce shouldn't update the angel on the hood to an airliner.

Yahoo's logo connected it back to the dawn of the World Wide Web, when pages were something your middle-schooler designed on geocities. That's a good connection; it marked Yahoo as a company that's been there and done that (giving many of us fond memories along the way). Why would you swap that for mediocre modernism?

Besides, if your CEO is spending the weekend designing a new logo for your multibillion dollar business, you're doing it wrong. Maybe this is supposed to be a sign that she's involved in every aspect of the company, but what this actually denotes is someone who can't delegate or prioritize. Even if you think that Yahoo needed a new logo, on the list of problems the company needs to fix, this ranked somewhere between "Rejigger vacation schedules" and "Get the third floor coffee maker fixed." If Marissa Meyer is going to work weekends, her attention should be fixed higher on the list, on items like "find a business model that isn't in slow-but-inexorable decline."

When companies in trouble -- and Yahoo is a company in trouble -- start fixating on trivia, it's a sign that they don't know what to do about the big problems. If you're on a sinking ship, it's best not to waste time looking for the best seat in the house.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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    Megan McArdle at

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