Magazine article Communication World

Yahoo! PR Events Sing with the Yodel Challenge

Magazine article Communication World

Yahoo! PR Events Sing with the Yodel Challenge

Article excerpt

Having successfully turned itself around by focusing on new revenue-generating services, Yahoo!, a leading global Internet company, challenged its public relations team to create a program that would reinforce its brand. While Yahoo!'s brand awareness was exceptionally strong, internal research showed that increased advertising by competitors in 2002 and a lack of brand-specific communication support had the potential to negatively affect what was at the time the Internet's strongest brand.

The company's signature yodel ("Yah--hoo--oo!"), the audio tag on its ads that has become synonymous with the brand, symbolizes the fun, open, independent experience that people want from the Internet. The PR team embraced the Yahoo! yodel and organized the Yahoo! Yodel Challenge, a contest to find America's favorite amateur yodeler, with a grand prize of appearing in an upcoming advertisement and US$10,000. This dynamic solution to Yahoo!'s marketing needs tapped into people's desire to achieve their "15 minutes of flame."


Yahoo!'s research indicated the need to reinforce the brand characteristics of innovative, trustworthy and fun, as well as to support the overarching marketing communication message "Do you Yahoo!?" The team, specifically Yahoo! and PR agency Fleishman-Hillard, set the following objectives and targets for the Challenge:

* Increase positive brand perceptions.

* Encourage consumers to enter the competition and secure 270 to 450 entries.

* Drive traffic to the Yahoo! Yodel Challenge microsite and log 1 million page views.

* Generate media coverage to promote awareness of the Challenge and the Yahoo! Yodel among target audiences, and secure 25 million impressions in media outlets (not including radio station promotions).

With these goals in mind, the team developed a series of strategies and tactics that not only reinforced the brand, but also created a buzz throughout the U.S.

Solution and implementation

The PR team turned the Yahoo! Yodel Challenge into a transportable, visual and newsworthy event that personified Yahoo!'s brand attributes. The program was divided into two parts: the search, and then the announcement of the winning yodeler.

A two-hour event, in which auditions and finals were conducted, was held in eight markets. The markets--New York City; San Francisco; Kansas City, Missouri; Chicago; Seattle; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Los Angeles; and Austin, Texas--were chosen based on criteria that included geographic diversity, media friendliness, and the availability of a central, busy location where the Yahoo! team could attract passing crowds. There was also an online component through which users could submit a video if they weren't able to attend an event in person.

Expert yodeler and country music singer Wylie Gustafson, who delivers the Yahoo! yodel in the company's commercials, was tapped to emcee the events and deliver brand messages in all communications including pre- and post-event publicity.

At each event, contestants were asked to perform the Yahoo! yodel and then a "freestyle" yodel of their choice. Maximum branding was achieved at each event through signage, not to mention all that yodeling!

Three winners were chosen in each market, including the online video submissions. The winning performances were then posted on a special microsite at, where users voted for their raw, rite in each market. The yodeler who received the most votes in each market received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for the finals. …

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