Bringing ’90s nostalgia into a mobile world
For Yahoo, it's too little, too late. Meanwhile, Nintendo is riding on Pokémon Go's success. Columnist Josh Todd takes a look at the mobile hits and misses of the two iconic brands and explains what marketers can learn from them.
If we take a look back at the names hitting the headlines over the past couple of months — Pokémon, Super Mario and Yahoo — something stands out: ’90s nostalgia is back in a big way.
However, brands like these, when looking to bring those familiar names into the modern world, will quickly find the game has changed. This is the story of two brands making that move with drastically different fates and there’s plenty for marketers to learn from them.
The rise and fall of Yahoo
We’ve all heard about Yahoo’s fall from grace for years — notably culminating in its $4.8 billion acquisition by Verizon earlier this year. But what went wrong? How did a brand with such a big name fail? Was it a series of poor acquisitions or just an inability to read the tea leaves and adjust strategy accordingly?
In short, Yahoo failed because of its inability to capitalize on mobile. That should serve as a lesson for all brands: No one is immune to platform changes, especially mobile.
Furthermore, these users, although obsessed with their phones, are fickle when it comes to the apps and brands they choose: 23 percent of them abandon an app after only one use.
Once Yahoo realized mobile was on the rise, it was too late. When the app store arrived in 2008, it changed the way we use the internet — training us to “snack” on mobile information on the go, rather than spending a significant amount of time on a desktop computer surfing the web.
Well, Yahoo lives and dies by its ad revenue, and this dramatic shift in user behavior drove eyeballs away from its valuable ads, cementing the brand’s inevitable decline.
Despite this change, Yahoo’s executive team didn’t pivot to meet mobile head on. Instead, the brand dug in its heels and doubled down on web video — a decision that would prove fatal in the years to come.
By the time Yahoo brought in Marissa Meyer to turn things around, Google and Facebook had already pushed ahead with mobile, leaving Yahoo far behind. Meyer tried to catch up, making hasty acquisitions of brands like Flurry, a mobile analytics platform, to improve its various content-driven apps.
While the apps got better, in the end, it was too little too late for Yahoo.
The latest chapter in Nintendo’s story is dramatically different from Yahoo’s, and I get the sense that it’s not quite over. This summer — as you undoubtedly heard — the brand released Pokémon Go, which became the most successful mobile launch in history.
It was a sign that the general public was more than ready for large-scale, user-based location engagement. While user engagement for the app inevitably dropped off, the experience it created initially sparked an excitement among fans not seen since Pokémon cards first hit the market.
Prior to the launch of Pokémon Go, Nintendo faced challenges not unlike Yahoo. Much like the internet giant, Nintendo had doubled down on its mainstay form of revenue (console-based games) and failed to capitalize on mobile.
At the final moment, the brand brought in Niantic — a startup out of Google — which helped create Pokémon Go and propel the value of Nintendo’s shares to new heights.
While the Pokémon Go fever seems to have (thankfully) faded slightly for now, Nintendo once again took front and center at the latest Apple event, unveiling plans for a new mobile-only Super Mario game. At the news, reporters, fanboys and investors around the world rejoiced. Nintendo’s stock jumped 29 percent. Although the game has yet to launch, Nintendo’s partnership with Apple shows its willingness to embrace mobile in a way that Yahoo was never able to.
With all that said, Nintendo’s success is by no means guaranteed. However, its triumphs over the past few months show us just how hungry mobile users are for advanced mobile apps that incorporate personalization, geo-location and augmented reality.
As many smaller companies try to follow in the footsteps of Nintendo (and avoid the missteps of Yahoo), we’ll likely see these stories play out again and again.