According to CNBC.com, the unscientific polling of online respondents runs 60-40 percent in favor of Marissa Ann Mayer’s horizontal glamour photo in the latest edition of Vogue.
Keep in mind that result still represents a healthy percentage, who question the decision of the telegenic blonde ex-Google executive, now President and CEO of the Sunnyvale-based web-portal, search-engine provider, Yahoo!
No one would deny that Mayer, 38, has the discretion to make herself available for the photographers and writers of the renowned fashion magazine Vogue. The questions that come to mind concern the timing and the impact on the Mayer and Yahoo! brands.
Taking a gander at Mayer’s feet slightly above her head Vogue photo spread, one may be reminded of Bill Clinton’s eye-brow raising, open-legs 2000 cover shot for Esquire, rekindling memories of Bill, Monica and Kenneth Starr.
How many other publicly traded company CEOs would be invited by Vogue to pose in a horizontal fashion? What subliminal messages are being sent, particularly in a predominant Silicon Valley engineering culture? Talk about tongues wagging at the water cooler and the inevitable social media chat.
Maybe that is what this gambit is all about?
Let’s face it: The music had stopped playing for Yahoo! Even though Mayer has been able to raise Yahoo’s share price by 74 percent to $27.35, drive market capitalization and acquire Tumblr, the world does not speak of Mayer’s company in the same fashion as it does for Apple, Salesforce, Amazon, LinkedIn, Netflix, Facebook and of course her biggest rival, Google.
Having said that, there is no doubt the tech community is talking about Mayer. For Vogue, the editors are following the tried-and-true axiom: Sex sells. Is Yahoo! about sex or about technology?
And what is the paramount brand: Yahoo! or Mayer?
There is always a danger that is associated with the imperial CEO and the company becoming an interchangeable brand…or worse, the CEO is the brand. Oracle is Larry Ellison. Sun Microsystems was Scott McNealy. Apple was Steve Jobs. Hewlett-Packard for six years became Carly Fiorina.
There was Carly, Carly and still more Carly.
Has $117 million (over five years) Marissa become a more beautiful-and-fashionable version of Carly? Carly and HP became synonymous in that order with disastrous results. To this day, Hewlett-Packard has never recovered from the Carly era complete with the ill-advised and divisive acquisition of Compaq Computer as the PC market was maturing and stalling.
What happens to Yahoo! if something (heaven forbid) happens to Marissa? Do we lose interest in Yahoo!? Who else matters at Yahoo!? Is Marissa grooming a successor and a deep bench? Will she also be invited to pose horizontally in a Michael Kors dress?
In public relations, timing is everything.
Mayer has been on the job for only 13 months. She already delivered her new son, Macallister. She took off two weeks for maternity leave, built a nursery right next to her office and earned the rhetorical slings and arrows treatment usually reserved for Republicans from the always kind-and-considerate, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.
She is just now getting into her groove. Shouldn’t she spend more time driving revenues and promoting profitability at the also-ran, search-engine provider, Yahoo!, before venturing off into the high-fashion world of Vogue? Her main competition is her former employer, Google. What’s worse is Google has become of the few companies that is actually a verb as in “Google this!” or “Google that!”
She is described by CNBC as “successful, strong and beautiful.” Still one must ask: Has she done enough for Yahoo!? Is her star rising faster and higher than Yahoo!? Is there a danger here?
One thing is certain when it comes to the media; the beast is the direct opposite of the U.S. Marine Corps. The folks at Camp Pendleton are renowned for breaking you down and then building you back up. The media specializes in building you up and then quickly bringing you down to earth in an unceremonious fashion.
Carly has first-hand experience when it comes to a Silicon Valley CEO ascending into the stratosphere and then crashing in the desert.
There are many, who will not celebrate Mayer’s celebrity. They will engage in Schadenfreude, when the inevitable bumps in the road ensue for Mayer and her company.
Maybe her company still matters.
And hopefully she didn’t peak to early.
Did the blood rush to her head when she posed with her heels elevated above her?