There was a lot of buzz this week around Yahoo! acquiring the micro-blogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion. (Yes, billion.) For many people, the news came as a surprise, mostly because they had never heard of Tumblr before this announcement. But social media experts saw the move as a strategic play by Yahoo! to become…well, “cool.” That begged the question: can a company really buy cool?
At first glance, Tumblr seems like any other blogging site – lots of people posting images of puppies, clothes and food, just to name a few. And who doesn’t like puppies, clothes or food? But, if you look a little closer, you’ll find within the Tumblr world an intricate network of communities distinctly defined by their interests and hobbies – no matter how slight, quirky, NC-17 or hipster (we’re looking at you, Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
In many ways, Tumblr gave rise to other popular sites like Pinterest and Instagram; the only difference now is that Tumblr’s CEO is super rich, and Tumblr itself is a hot Yahoo! commodity. So, can Yahoo! buy its way back to the top of a world that Google constantly redefines? That’s the million – err, billion dollar question. But for the heath-care industry, the more important question is really: can health care ever BE cool?
They say that the Tumblr purchase is about making Yahoo! relevant and contemporary. But it really is a play to make Yahoo! the #1 force in an industry they once dominated, with a micro-blog focused on a very specific audience that advertisers care about. Health care will always struggle to be hip, but we’ve noted that this idea of appealing to an individual consumer has been missing in the health benefits space for some time.
In the move to “socialize” benefits, we can’t neglect the main lesson from Tumblr. Health care needs to find a way to appeal to distinct consumers and communities—that means going well beyond Olympics medal categories in health reform. Consumers need a contemporary, simple and relevant way to pick and choose among the coverage that really suit their individual interests and needs. As players do that well, they gain the trust and affinity to invite the consumer to actually consume their benefits in more meaningful ways.
From the outside, the Tumblr acquisition can be frustrating when you think about how much harder others have worked to build a company value that is much lower. But it is a clear lesson about the application of technology, the power of the Internet and the choice architecture that delivers the goods to a defined segment.