Brands May Be Surprised to Find Themselves on Yo

Squatters likely reason Pepsi, Subway, McDonald's popping up on hot app

Yo, Pepsi. Yo, McDonald's. Yo, Subway. Welcome to Yo—whether you like it or not. 

The identities of some of the largest corporations are popping up on the latest app obsession—among them, Subway, Pepsi, McDonald's, Apple, Facebook, Taco Bell, Delta, Starbucks, NBA, NFL, Ford and Twitter.

The user can send Yo's to any brand, and some Yo back. Of course, anybody could have secured usernames for those companies—there is no telling exactly who is doing the Yo-ing. As it happens, they're most likely squatters, a problem brands have had to contend with forever in cyberspace.

Yo works like this: You download it to your phone, pick out a unique username, invite friends, then tap their usernames to send a Yo. With every notification, the app says, "Yo."

Already, the username Subway, Pepsi, McDonalds and Twitter have sent Yos. A McDonald's rep said they have not set up an "official presence" on the app.

The issue of username hijacking became even more relevant today with TechCrunch reporting that someone has assumed Elon Musk's Yo-dentity, and is asking for a Tesla from the elctric car CEO in exchange for the account.

The app launched as an April Fool's joke, but after raising more than $1 million it is being taken seriously in the tech community. It has actually been referred to as the future of context-based notifications and the death of digital dualism—whatever that is. It seems to be just the latest fart app, a novelty.

The app's first investor and co-founder Moshiko Hogeg, who also is the CEO of an app called Mobli, commissioned Yo as a funny way to request the atttention of his personal assistant.

As of Thursday, the app was more popular than Facebook's new Slingshot service, having more than 200,000 downloads, most in the prior 24 hours. (Update: It has since reached No. 4 in App Annie's U.S. download rankings, jumping from about No. 300 on Wednesday.)

The app doesn't appear to have any immediate use for brands—all they could do is amass a list of contacts and say Yo to them.

"Honestly, if I hear a brand bring it up I will be shocked," said Alan Simkowski of GMR Marketing. "You can probably build this into any type of app and replicate the interaction."

Still, many had similar reservations about Twitter—and many companies that didn't jump on the social media platform early saw their brand names get swiped. Squatters are known to snag high-level names when such sites launch. 

One argument holds that Yo is a means of engaging more simply with consumers. CNN Money proposed that Starbucks might Yo its customers when their orders were ready.

Brands including Subway that were contacted did not immediately confirm whether they did, in fact, secure their own usernames on Yo. The first definite squatter came courtesy of the Yo team itself, which secured the username WORLDCUP and sends out a notification to contacts every time a goal is scored.

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