AOL’s brand has been scaled down to accumulating content and being more behind-the-scenes than in your face. After all, just reminiscing about the gameshow voice exclaiming “you’ve got mail” is enough to make you smirk and recall the heyday of the 90s tech boom. And the Yahoo brand, once the darling of offering free services, has taken serious lumps in the past few years. Maybe a merger is what’s best to leverage what remaining brand equity the two companies have left, in a hail-mary that ups the ante against their formidable competition.
Still, even if Yahoo and AOL merge, how will they dominate the industry? More importantly, who will lead this new brand behemoth forward? Let’s face it – every major tech company is defined by a face. Apple = Steve Jobs, Microsoft = Bill Gates, Dell = Michael Dell, Facebook = Mark Zuckerberg, and so forth. These company heads are all celebrities in their own right, and thus give an added dimension to their company brands.
So what about AOL? Current CEO Tim Armstrong is credited with maintaining morale at the beleaguered company, and … well, maintaining morale at the beleaguered company. And Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz – well, let’s just say that she’s not exactly the most cool and level-headed public personality.
The lesson here is that pre-merger hype offers a good chance to enhance present brand value, but should always be coupled with a smart PR strategy. In this case, the merger’s interested parties should start teasing media as to who the new leader might be, and promote that person’s presence aggressively. If not, it’s a missed opportunity to give the post-merger entity a strong media push out the gates.