Is Yo The Next Great Platform For Brands?

The launch of the Yo app this past April was met with a lot of excitement, and plenty of skepticism. An infusion of capital for an app that exists only to let people send their friends a message that says “Yo”? While hundreds of thousands of users were having fun doing so, a number of eyes were being rolled. Comedian Stephen Colbert did a segment on the app, saying, “When I first learned about an app that boils down all your communication into two letters, I expressed myself in one: Why?”


Had the app remained static after its initial launch, perhaps Colbert and others may have ultimately been right. The one-click messaging service that Yo initially focused on provides its users with unique value, but comes with obvious limitations. But a few funny things happened along the way that have incredible implications for brands, businesses, and consumers alike. With Yo’s additions of location services and the ability to add links to a message, Yo has become, perhaps, the next great digital platform for brands. It might actually be the one that surpasses all others.

Consider the case of Motorola back in August. The brand was looking for an innovative way to launch their brand new Moto360 smart watch, and they used Yo to do it. The brand gave users 24 hours to send a Yo to Motorola. Those that did received a link the following day — via a Yo — and the first 20 folks who clicked the link won a brand new Moto 360.

Some may see Motorola’s case and think it’s no big deal. On the surface, it can be viewed as your standard mid-2010s digital and social media product launch sweepstakes. Perhaps the thought goes that brands already use Twitter and Facebook for these types of things, and there’s no need to add yet another platform to the brand awareness arsenal. However, this response was brought about by a case of selective or poor storytelling. The tale is actually missing the best and biggest part, what Yo’s Head of Marketing Danny Hakimian calls “The centerpiece, the core advantage of Yo”: access to the lock screen on consumers’ smartphones. Or, as Hakimian puts it, the lock screen is “The most valuable real estate in the digital world.”

Let’s say Motorola decided to use Twitter for its launch of the Moto360 and the resulting sweepstakes. Had the brand applied the same strategy — tweet a link to its followers, award the first 20 users who clicked the link a brand new watch — Motorola would likely not have come close to actually reaching its entire followership. If one of the brand’s followers was at lunch with a friend, with a phone in their pocket or purse, they would have missed the sweepstakes altogether.

“If a user isn’t there in that 20-minute window, that message is forever lost,” Hakimian said.

Even a user who was scrolling through their Twitter feed at the time the tweet was sent by the brand may have missed it, due to the sheer amount of noise on the platform. Yo allows a brand to cut through the noise. “The exact person you’re hoping to target is virtually impossible,” Hakimian noted about feed-based platforms. “The engagement rates from them are far more poor as a result of the excess noise, when people are vying for your users’ attention above and below you. With Yo, once a user has opted in, you’re there on your own, and it’s there in real time.”

And the idea of users “opting in” is critical. Some people can view push notifications as invasive, but that can be because the consumer feels the notifications lack value. A user might download a new app and not realize it comes with push notifications, then feel bombarded when they start coming in. But Yo offers consumers the ability to pick and choose the brands that have access to their lock screen, and the platform gives brands the chance to offer relevant, useful content directly to the consumer. Users on other social platforms also cherry-pick the brands they want content from, but for Hakimian, the difference with Yo is the near-guarantee that a brand’s content will reach the consumer. On other platforms, the user needing to be logged in and active simultaneously as the brand releases the content allows for the good possibility that the consumer misses, as Hakimian puts it, “those golden nuggets.”

In today’s digital world, it can be hard to claim you’re providing true relevancy value without the presence of location. So recently, Yo took care of that by launching YoLocation, which allows a user to double-tap on a username to send their location along with a Yo. From a brand or business perspective, it’s a huge step. If a user already subscribes to your Yos, there’s a good chance they’re okay with sharing their location with you if there’s something in it for them. Being able to Yo their location to find the nearest store? Some brands are already taking advantage of it.


It’s clear from speaking to Hakimian that one of the hallmarks of Yo is its simplicity and usability. When asked about the future of Yo, he insists that so much of the work that’s done is towards the goal of keeping the app’s interface easy to use. He stresses that the usability is also one of the reason’s the platform is so attractive for brands. Yo isn’t a content creation app, and that works in its favor. It allows brands to take its already-created content and push it out to consumers in a targeted, direct way. The time is spent on the content itself, not in getting it out there. “That 10-second effort has the possibility for an incredibly powerful return,” Hakimian said.

As Yo gets more users and more brands on board, there is sure to be more innovation on how the platform can be used. Will ordering a pizza to be delivered eventually be as easy as tapping the pizza shop’s name on Yo? Colbert may have wondered why. But we’re wondering, why not?

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