3 Reasons Why Marissa Mayer’s Hiring is a Huge Win for Yahoo

Ask most consumers about Yahoo, and their eyes will light up…with fond memories of 1997. In the tech world, where success means appearing cutting-edge and innovative, Yahoo has had a massive string of bad luck – much of it self-inflicted. Just a few days ago, there was news that 450,000 passwords were leaked, the result of crafty hackers and woefully lax security. Before that there was Scott Thompson, the short-lived CEO who fabricated his credentials. And before that was Carol Bartz, who entered Yahoo as a turnaround artist but was fired and caused a scandal of her own by publicly denouncing the board.

But today’s announcement that Marissa Mayer, a 13 year veteran of Google, will be the new CEO has turned the news in a markedly more positive direction. Here are three reasons why Mayer’s hiring is a major coup for Yahoo.

  1. It changes the conversation. Amidst the company’s chronic onslaught of bad news, Yahoo’s ability to land Mayer (one of the most prominent women in tech) has created huge buzz. Only 37, Mayer is young, pretty, vivacious – and the embodiment of the fresh start Yahoo needs.
  2. It’s a show of faith in Yahoo. Mayer, who was Google employee number 20, is already a wealthy woman. She doesn’t need this job, or any other job – and her willingness to abandon a successful, long-term tenure at Google is a big sign of confidence in Yahoo’s prospects. After all, her professional reputation is at stake. Her decision to take a chance on the beleaguered company may inspire other top-notch Silicon Valley talent to come along for the ride.
  3. She knows the business. An engineer by training, Mayer has been in charge of some of Google’s most winning, characteristic elements – its delightfully uncluttered homepage, Gmail, and local services (including Google Maps) among them. Now, she will be leveraging her technical and management expertise to help Yahoo build on its greatest assets, including email and finance. (Its days of search are long gone; it entered into a partnership with Microsoft in 2009.) And mobile, which Facebook has yet to colonize, may be another important territory to contest.

After a decade of corporate misfortune, it’s asking a lot for Marissa Mayer to become Yahoo’s savior. But she’s a worthy candidate to try. With just the right amount of technical sophistication and Silicon Valley street cred, Mayer might just be able to  turn around this Web 1.0 company in a Web 2.0 world.

Do you think Mayer was a good hire? Can she turn Yahoo around?

This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on July 16, 2012.

Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.