The « Travolta Effect » : Microsoft, Yahoo!, Blackberry & Google Plus

The “Travolta Effect” doesn’t have a precise definition.  I decided to use this actor’s experience to illustrate brands’ ability to make a comeback on the market, even when they were thought to be quite dead.  In the digital world, things move very fast and we have a tendency to arrive at hasty conclusions.

Certain left-for-dead are able to resurrect.  Is this a swan song or a true revolution ?  Let’s take a look.

In this accelerated world of digital, brands are quickly buried or raved about.  However, as long as the company exists, the brand can potentially revive itself in the market (with more of less difficulty).

Brands too have their dry spells.  Apple and Intel, for instance, had theirs in previous decades.  This doesn’t only happen with digital businesses.  Let us not forget that Adidas was valued at 1 symbolic euro not so long ago…

We are currently witnessing the return if not the renaissance of several brands that I’d like to examine.


Microsoft is in place

A year ago, the CEO of Forrester predicted Microsoft’s big comeback on the set of LeWeb.  He claimed that the next decade would belong to Microsoft.  With the launch of Surface, their latest tablet, of a very pleasant mobile OS and  with continual innovation, it does look like they are on the right path.  This road is of course a long one, fraught with suspicious if not downright mocking attitudes.  But it would seem that the brand founded by Bill Gates is definitely on the upswing, taking advantage of the relative but nonetheless real fall of Apple (who announced for the first time in many years that iPhone sales had dropped below projections).

We are seeing more and more articles praising the brand that was so heavily criticized at the beginning of the millennium.

It’s too early to confirm whether or not this decade will indeed belong to Microsoft, but they seem to be moving in the right direction.


Yahoo! rises from its ashes thanks to Marissa Mayer

I remember when I was still in school, passively witnessing the launch of Google.  At the time, I thought that nothing could stop the conquest of the giant Yahoo! and my student brain chuckled “nice try”.

It’s sounds pretty crazy, but when you think about it, Yahoo! helped Google to develop as it has.

For the past few years, we’ve all be wondering who on earth goes on Yahoo! (+90% market share for Google in France) and we have witnessed the demise of “star” sites such as Flickr.  Then, last summer, Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo! and the tornado began to clean things up.

It was interesting to see a successful entrepreneur/investor such as Loic Le Meur announce last week that he was considering investing in Yahoo! after having heard/met Marissa in Davos.  Although this may be no more than an impulsive tweet, it is indicative of some movement.

Without going to such extremes, all you have to do is download Flickr to discover how powerful it is, as opposed to Instagram or any other photo app.  To me, this is a perfect demonstration of what Yahoo! is capable of.

Obviously, it lacks the community element, because Facebook/Instagram already form a dynamic duo.  But Flickr may just seduce photography aficionados and then spread out to other audiences.

Flickr is not Yahoo!, you may point out.  But I think it is a good example of the turn Yahoo! is taking : towards a user-oriented vision.

As for Microsoft, Yahoo!’s road will be long.  But Marissa seems to be the right person for the job, picking up after several CEO’s failed to sort out the Yahoo! situation.


Blackberry : they’ve finally figured it out

When I talk about mobile OS in conferences, I always speak of the choice between iOS and Android.  Then I mention Blackberry, just for laughs.

They messed up so many times you feel bad for them.

For some time now, Blackberry has been the brunt of jokes in certain circles.  Those who are required to use a Blackberry for work criticize their company for not being modern.

But when the demonstration of the soon-to-be-launched Blackberry 10 is shown, everyone stops laughing.

Everyone simply agrees that Blackberry has finally understood, and the only emotion anyone feels (aside from pure astonishment) is a burning desire to test-drive this new model.

Some will say it’s too late.  But they probably forget that tons of companies are still primarily equipped with Blackberries and that IT managers don’t want to switch to the less-secure iPhone (despite the huge Blackberry bug that took place recently).

It would appear that Blackberry has finally managed to bring together the best of both worlds, and that they have surpassed Apple and Android in terms of usability.  The fact does remain, however, that there are (practically) no apps available on Blackberry, and that people choose their phone today in part because of the world of applications that it brings to their fingertips.  But the partnership with Android that has been announced will resolve this issue.  The next hurdles will be what to do in the post-telephone era (connected watches seem to be all the rage) and how to reinvent the corresponding tablet (even if the one Blackberry offered had many advantages, it was not as successful as anticipated).


Google Plus : the #2 social network worldwide

I can still hear the laughter from last year, when the idea was floated that Google might possibly win its bet on the social network front.

Today, according to Globalwebindex, Google Plus and its 343 million active users has surpassed Youtube (Google too, which indicates how powerful it is, just in case anyone still had doubts), and is now ranked second among social networks.

Furthermore, it’s interesting to note the decline of certain Asian platforms that were the subject of some debate.

It’s still in the future, but it seems pretty obvious that Google Plus is on the rise, whereas Facebook, with its declining loyalty, is on slippery footing.

I’m quite curious to see how people will react to the concept of the “social search”.  On paper, it’s pretty remarkable.  It shows in a very factual fashion everything that Facebook knows about you and it keeps you enclosed in your sphere.  My feeling is that users have a love-hate relationship with the idea of “personalization” – the fear of Big Brother is always lurking in the shadows.

Connoisseurs will say that Google does the same thing.  Perhaps, but I think it seems less obvious to users.


In conclusion

There are many other examples (I intentionally left out Myspace and Nokia, although their efforts have been significant), but these ones best illustrate my point.  We should pay attention to a company’s ability to bounce back; sometime we’re too quick to write them off.

That’s exactly what is so fascinating.  Comebacks will always be possible and they always have been.  Even if the lifespan of big companies has shrunk in the Internet era, the possibility is always there.

gregfromparisAuteur: Grégory Pouy
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