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Yahoo appoints Lockerz CEO as new CMO

Yahoo has named Kathy Savitt, the founder of social commerce startup Lockerz, as its CMO. Savitt, also a former executive at American Eagle Outfitters Inc., will be reporting directly to CEO Marissa Mayer, who joined Yahoo in July.

Savitt will replace Mollie Spilman, who had been appointed to the position just three months ago by interim CEO Ross Levinsohn. Levinsohn left the company when he was passed over for the permanent CEO role. The appointment of Savitt is the latest in a series of executive appointments Mayer has been making since taking over as CEO.

Savitt, who begins at Yahoo on September 14, will be responsible for all of the company’s worldwide marketing and branding.

In addition to Lockerz and American Eagle, Savitt has held leadership roles at Amazon.com, and her experience in the e-commerce arena is expected to be an asset to her work at the Web portal giant. In her announcement of the appointment, Mayer emphasized Savitt’s work “refining well-loved consumer brands,” which Mayer expects to prove valuable as Yahoo works to refresh its own brand identity.

“[Mayer] needs people she can trust, who when they agree on something she knows it will be done,” says Sameet Sinha, senior analyst for B. Riley & Co.

Savitt’s success with Lockerz, which has amassed 45 million users over three years by offering deals to visitors who share photos, suggests that Mayer also may be planning to focus the attention of the marketing team on other Yahoo-owned properties. “Yahoo has a hidden asset in Flickr, which they have under-monetized, and we know that photo sharing is on the move,” says Sinha. “I’m sure she will not only be able to work with the Yahoo brand, but provide insight into how the other pieces should be monetized or restructured.”

According to Sinha, Mayer is more of “product person” than Levinsohn and previous CEO Scott Thompson, under whose leadership Yahoo put a greater focus on content. Mayer, he says, appears to be looking to shape Yahoo as a brand and streamline how it approaches marketing.

“It’s critical that the product sell to the consumer before it’s sold to advertisers,” Sinha says.

Simon Smith, digital director for Interbrand, sees the hire of Savitt as a sign that Mayer, a former Google executive, is not, as some have argued, looking to “out-Google Google” by putting her focus primarily on Yahoo’s technology offerings. Instead he sees Savitt’s appointment as an effort to seek out a marketing leader who is more experienced connecting with consumers on a human level.

“It’s a very good hire. She has traditional experience but also a new, more human way of doing things,” Smith says. “It’s not just another person from Google—I’m sure she knows all of them.”

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