Anyone trying to get a sense for where Marissa Mayer hopes to take Yahoo should take a look at the background of Kathy Savitt, the Seattle-area tech executive who was named the company’s next chief marketing officer yesterday, reporting directly to the new CEO.
Savitt, who is stepping down as the CEO of social commerce startup Lockerz to take the Yahoo job, is known for her focus on “Generation Z” — teenagers and twenty-somethings. By choosing Savitt as chief marketing officer, Mayer appears to be preparing the aging Internet company for an Oldsmobile-style remake, aiming to appeal to younger generations. “This is not your father’s Yahoo!”
To get a better sense for the perspective Savitt brings to Yahoo, we tracked down the archived video of an appearance she made one year ago at a Social Media Club Seattle event. Her comments on the habits of Generation Z and the role of a web portal in their lives provide some insights into how she approaches the online world, and how that approach could help to shape a new Yahoo.
Here’s an excerpt of her talk. (She was interviewed by the Social Media Club’s Brian Westbrook.)
When we started Lockerz, we had this mission that we used for recruiting — we wanted to be the home page for Generation Z. And inevitably you got questions. The ‘smart cynics’ in the room would say, ‘Oh, are you going to topple Facebook? Ha, ha, ha.’ And we said, if you understand Gen Z, our goal is not to topple Facebook. First of all, they’re our partner. We have a tremendous amount of respect and affection for Facebook. But we see it as a utility. The experience for a 55-year-old office manager is the same as for a 16-year-old punk surfboard kid. And it’s really disgusting when the 55-year-old’s best friend friends that 16-year-old. It’s not a great moment for them.
We instead look at it through the eyes of a Gen Z. The average Gen Z has 3+ windows open at any time. There’s no notion of a home page. They typically have some sort of social networking site open, they typically have some form of entertainment, whether it’s YouTube, or a Hulu or a Funny or Die, and then they have some form of consumptive behavior. Consumptive could be in the gaming space, it could be a shopping site … Those are usually the three windows. And so when we say we want to be the home page for Gen Z, we just want to be one of the three. We want to be part of those three that are open. That share of voice, and being part of that consideration set, is super important when you want to reach Gen Z.
So whatever Yahoo becomes in the years ahead, we presume it will be age-appropriate.
We’ve known Savitt since way back in the dot-com heyday, when her Seattle-based firm was doing public relations for tech companies. She sold that PR company to Interpublic and went on to work as an executive for Amazon.com and American Eagle Outfitters, where she became intrigued with Generation Z.
Savitt raised around $75 million in venture capital for Lockerz, where she will become board chair and be replaced as CEO by chief operating officer Mark Stabingas.
It has been interesting to watch her career progress over the years. It will be fascinating to see what (and how) she does at Yahoo.
Here’s the video of her talk at the SMC Seattle event last year.