Monthly Archives: June 2012

Let’s bring back the walking fingers

The Yellow Page industry is at a serious crossroads – print still works well for most publishers in rural markets, and digital products both online and mobile are obviously growing in popularity.  Some publishers, like the Yell Group, are abandoning any link to “yellow pages” by adopting company names like “hibu” so the look/sound more relevant in this “SoLoMo” advertising world.  Add it up, and the industry has the feel at times that it’s just drifting without a clear direction or future.  That’s very unsettling to those of us that look to the industry for their living.

So at a time where the industry needs a serious shot in the arm, I have a suggestion — we need to bring back the core brand that made this industry the stalwart it has been for 120+ years or so.  I am suggesting we bring back the Yellow Pages “Walking Fingers” logo and begin promoting the heck out of it.  But with one key caveat – we should update the message to reflect the value this industry does provide is now in print, online, and mobile formats.  No matter the physical platform, your fingers are still doing the walking on your phone, on a keyboard, or through the book.

In the beginning…

To this day, it is still one of the most widely recognized brands out there.  Its origins go back to the early 1960s when Henry Alexander, graduated from the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, Massachusetts, began a successful freelance career as an illustrator and commercial designer. Alexander created the first “Walking Fingers” symbol for the New England Telephone Company in 1962.

As all of the Telco publishers were still part of one regulated monopoly – the AT&T Bell System, it only took about a year before AT&T and each of the regional telephone companies that made up the Bell System started using  the symbol on their telephone directories. The symbol became instantly recognizable.  A new Let Your Fingers Do The Walking campaign ran during the 1970’s. This campaign kicked off the process of raising awareness of Yellow Pages as a brand and introduced the Walking Fingers logo encouraging every American household to “let your fingers do the walking” through the Yellow Pages.  Both the symbol and the slogan were seen for years by millions of people in national advertising campaigns.

Ironically, AT&T never consider the originally version with three fingers to be proprietary, and  never applied for a trademark on the logo. This was the first of several legal blunders AT&T made regarding trademarks.  Later, as various Telco publishers adopted variations of the logo, they then trademarked their versions.  Realizing the error of their ways, right before its breakup, the Bell System made one final attempt to apply for a trademark on the original logo, which was denied on the grounds that it “had become a generic indicator of the yellow pages without regard to any particular source.”

In some countries, the familiar “walking fingers” logo is not protected as a trademark and may be used by anyone.  In other countries such as Canada, the logo and even the concept of “yellow pages” has been severely restricted to use by just the Telco affiliated publisher.

Let’s try something different…

In the mid-90’s what was then the Yellow Pages Publishers Association (YPPA), had several board members that became concerned that Yellow Pages had lost some of its mojo to other advertising media.  In an effort to gain a fresh look, the Association had its publishers members move to a new (trademarked this time) logo with a lightbulb and the tagline, “Get an idea”, instead of the walking fingers.  

Unable to achieve any significant  traction with the new branding (traction that could be verify through higher sales) the “Get an Idea” campaign was abandoned two years later. The Yellow Pages “Walking Fingers” were back, albeit in a smaller scale, and are still being used by most publishers.

The original symbol and tagline is so deeply ingrained in the minds of American consumers and businesses, and so iconic, that no other symbol of Yellow Pages directories has yet to gain an equivalent status.

What’s old, is new again..

So why should we bring the walking fingers program?

  • We are still the one advertising media that connects buyers to sellers.  The iconic walking fingers still reflect that core mission of the industry products.
  • It’s a logo and tagline you don’t have to explain – most people already get it which makes re-implementing it a lot easier than selling some new concept from scratch.
  • For the update part, the messaging should be that we are still using our fingers when we shop, it’s just that sometimes it’s in a book, or on a mobile phone, or on the keyboard to access the internet, or flipping pages on an ipad.  But at the end of day the motion is the same.
  • We wouldn’t be the first company/industry to reinvent a popular old brand name
  • Announcing a return to the walking fingers wouldn’t necessarily requires a huge, expensive new marketing campaign, IF….each publisher agreed to promote it together in their local market.
  • A move back to this iconic symbol would generate a local news buzz that allows the industry to tell its story.  This type of coverage, better known as “free press”, is something you can’t buy

What do you think?  Should we bring the walking fingers back as the generic industry symbol???




It’s always the right time to advertise in the Yellow Pages

The nice folks at American Express sent me an article about when the best times are to tweet and post on Facebook, times when you can get the maximum exposure.  These emerging social media are examples of  new platforms that some marketers are frothing over to use their advertising dollars on, I assume to help grow their businesses.

Any guesses??  Early morning?  Late at night?  For the record, beyond the website, I use both Twitter and Facebook to share business information with the greater industry, but have always been a bit doubtful that these platforms could ever really attract and retain customers anywhere near as well as Yellow Pages.

The source of this analysis was, the URL shortening service which recently analyzed retweets and clickthroughs that tweets get when they’re posted at certain times of the week and times of day. also analyzed Facebook links.

And the results were….

Time to Tweet:

For Twitter, peak traffic time for Twitter in general is around the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST window, Monday through Thursday.  As an marketer, your best chance at getting the most clickthroughs is 1 to 3 p.m. EST Monday through Thursday.  Posting after 8 p.m. should be avoided and even noted in a blog post: “….Specifically, don’t bother posting after 3 p.m. on a Friday, since as far as being a gateway to drive traffic to your content, it appears that Twitter doesn’t work on weekends.”  Wow.   That doesn’t sound like a very effective advertising platform.

More depressing news is that the half-life of a link on Twitter is something like 2.8 hours.

Getting More Likes:

For Facebook, traffic starts to pick up about 9 a.m., but suggests waiting to post until 11 a.m. Facebook traffic begins to fade after 4 p.m.   The absolute highest number of clickthroughs comes at 3 p.m. EST on Wednesday, with links posted from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. picking up the highest average clickthroughs.  Links posted after 8 p.m. and before 8 a.m. perform terribly.  As with Twitter, weekends are less than ideal.  But if you miss Wednesday at 3 p.m. there is always next week.

The analysis conflicts a little with a study from last month by Buddy Media, showing that Thursday and Friday were better for engagement on Facebook. One possible reason for the difference was methodology as Buddy analyzed 200 clients’ Facebook posts over a two-week period, in addition to the comments and Likes spurred by those posts, whereas focused just on the sharing of links.

As a disclaimer of sorts, adds that it is important to keep in mind that these times are meant only as “a guide”, and may not apply to breaking news. In addition, the ideal post times may vary by a  particular business, customer, or type of content.

Yellow Pages:

So let’s take this theme a little further.  When is the best time for someone to use a print, online, or mobile Yellow PagesAnswer24/7/365.  Results are not limited to 1 to 4 pm EDT on alternate Thursdays.

So why should a savvy SMB advertise in the Yellow Pages?  Answer:  to be available to those buying customers  24/7/365.  Three examples of why that’s important:

  1. Do you know when a strong wind is going to blow down your fence (as mine just did several weeks ago)?
  2. Can you predict when the garage door opener is going to jam and not work (as in the door will not open so I can’t get the car out of the garage) like it did on a recent holiday for me?
  3. Why is it  that the dog always seems to get sick and need professional veterinarian care on a Saturday evening?

I’m sure you can think of dozens of other similar life events that occur when you least expect them, or even those purchases you know you need to make for something you are not an expert in.   Where would you turn?  Facebook?

It may not be very sexy, but the Yellow Pages work, every day, weekend, holiday, at any time the need arises for a local product or service.



Why Advertise in the Yellow Pages? It’s All About the CURER Factors

Small business owners (SMB’s) are very busy people.  There is inventory, payroll, taxes, paperwork, scheduling, customer service, and yes, many even take the garbage out.  You can’t blame them if they sometimes haven’t studied advertising and marketing trends.  Which is why Yellow Page industry sales reps can be a big asset to their business.

We asked Jacqui Ponkey of Genesis Publisher Services, a company that provides sales training and support services to a number of publishers, what core values does Yellow Pages have which should make it a preferred advertising source for most SMB’s?  She immediately educated us on the CURER value factors:

“C” as in Circulation

Every home and business in the area receives the book free each year.  Can any other media beat that?  Circulation covers both the primary and secondary distribution that many publishers provide to new incoming residents and businesses in the book scope.

Those not interested in the print books can opt-out.  So far, opt out percentages have been in the low single digit ranges in most communities.

Every rep should be fully versed in the number of copies distributed, where, and when.

“U” as in Usage

The latest research does show that even if overall usage has been trending lower, we are still talking about 7 out of 10 adults using the printed or online Yellow Pages at least once a year.  Many business owners will question this fact given the perception that “everyone” uses the Internet or their mobile phone. But, if that was true, how could call tracking ads be showing a 10+% increase in call volumes year over year?  In an economy like this, with high gas prices, buyers want to know if a product or service is available BEFORE they venture out to get it.

“R” as in Results

While we could argue about how many people use the books on a regular basis, one Yellow Pages fact not in dispute is what happens when a buyer does pick up the book – 78% make a purchasing decision and take action.  Surfing the web can be cool, and I love flipping between multiple TV channels, after a leisurely ride home from work listening to the radio.  But none of those media are as good an information source when I am ready to make that actual buying action as Yellow Pages.  These other media are great if you want to be distracted for 45 minutes often on a tangent that has nothing to do with the original search parameters.

“E” as in Economy

Bottom line for SMB’s – its all about return.  And this case we are talking ROI – Return on the Investment made in their advertising program.  Can 70+% of SMBs be that dumb if they are at least renewing their Yellow Pages program each year?  If it wasn’t working for them, why would they continue to spend money on it?  Studies continue to show that print advertising programs are generating AT LEAST $10 for each $1 spent.

“R” as in Retention

It may sit on a shelf or a corner table for most of the year, but while that is happening, it uses no electrical power, doesn’t require any special connections, and is full portable ready and waiting for the customer is ready to buy.  What other media has a shelf life of a year (or more), and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week including holidays?


These are the core values of Yellow Pages.  They are the facts, and they are not in dispute.  Are you sharing these with each advertiser (or potential advertiser) you are talking with?


Can you “hibu”?

Yell/YellowBook has recently announced it will rebrand as “hibu”, (pending the approval of its shareholders in July) in an effort to be more identified as a service provider to SMBs that goes beyond just traditional print Yellow Pages.  A study using 165 cases of company rebranding  found that no matter whether a rebranding comes from a change in corporate strategy (e.g., M&A) or constitutes an actual marketing strategy (change the corporate reputation), the effort aims at enhancing, regaining, transferring, and/or repositioning the corporate brand equity.

Such a radical name change like this certainly raises the issue of whether Yellow Page publishers need new brands to attract (and retain) new users. Company rebranding is a tricky game – remember the “new” Coke?  Some other recent examples include the company we all love to hate; cable-television and Internet conglomerate Comcast, a name synonymous with poor customer service and overcharging which in February 2010, began marketing its Internet video services under the new name, Xfinity, leaving customers to wonder what exactly the name meant. As a writer for Time magazine quipped, “Will the name change work? Probably not, but at least it’ll sound a bit edgier when you’re put on hold … with Xfinity.”

Another example would be The Gap.  In October 2010, the clothing retailer Gap abandoned it’s long standing logo consisting of a blue box with “GAP” written in white inside, for a slightly altered new version described by Marka Hansen, Gap’s president for North America, as a “…journey to make Gap more relevant to our customers.” Apparently, the customers didn’t share his view, and following a tide wave of online criticism/outrage, the company did an about-face within a week.Unique company or product names, by themselves, may not have any actual meaing to begin with. But if backed by a strong, successful branding campaign, they can come to signify whatever the companies want them to mean.  Case in point — AFLAC, a large international insurer but hardly a household name until the last few years, is now well recognized using a duck as a key spokesperson and promoter.

The success of any rebranding is more tied to the level of advertising needed to create an image around the name.  “I don’t think the name of a company is hugely important in the long run,” suggests professor David Schmittlein. He adds that even fabricated names are “real names” in the sense that “they are pronounceable words. I think of them as largely empty vessels – reliable and durable empty vessels that can be filled up with positive associations.”

The Yellow Page industry is no different.  This name change for Yell follows several recent publisher branding changes, made in order to separate the company from the “baggage” of the print Yellow Pages label as they pursue new digital products. Hence, we’ve seen names like Idearc, ZipLocal, LocalEdge, Sensis, Truvo, and Eniro.

A primary case study could be made the creation of Verizon Communications, which was formed in June, 2000, following the merger of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. The genesis of the unique company name came from the Latin word “veritas” meaning truth, combined with the word “horizon”, all to project something more forward-looking and visionary. The Verizon symbol was also selected because it uses the two letters of the Verizon logo that graphically portrayed speed.  (Source)

In making this change, Verizon, beyond having a huge advertising budget to promote the change, had several other branding advantages working in its favor:

  • A huge fleet of telephone company vehicles driving around the market each and every day (aka – rolling billboards)
  • As a public utility, numerous daily articles and stories in which the public was reminded of the name change  (as in free publicity)
  • A growing cellular presence which helped push the name even more quickly, even in areas where they were not the incumbent telephone provider.

Yell/Hibu is certainly handicapped in the transition without these supporting efforts.  The question for Yell/Hibu is whether its shift in branding, which accentuates its move to new digital products, can be accomplished in time.  Yell has been undergoing a radical transformation since its leadership changed in 2011 with the retirement of John Condron. Current CEO Mike Pocock is trying to shift the business from just a directory publisher to a provider of a complete range of local advertising and e-marketing services.

With a nagging debt load which contributed to a GBP 1.4 billion loss for the year and prompted the company to retain Goldman Sachs and Greenhill to help it build a new capital structure, can the company amass a big enough budget to truly promote and implement the name change?

Ironic isn’t it though that the funding for this name change for Yell Group is actually coming from the very core print products they seemed to be in such a hurray to distance themselves from (print is 71.3% of Yell revenue,  78.1% for YellowBook – per the newly renamed Goddard Report).

Certainly, the future isn’t what it use to be….

News U Can Use – June

These news items are brought to you by Kuk, Baldwin & Associates:

AN EYE FOR VALUE.     About two-thirds of US adults need glasses or contact lenses, and those who have bought glasses or contacts recently know that the cost can be eye popping.   That’s why a lot of buyers, especially with no eye care insurance coverage, are turning to online eyeglass and/or contact lens sellers.   Indeed, the dollar savings can be significant – for example the median online price for single lens eyeglasses is $47, compared to $139 from a brick-and-mortar optician, and for progressive lenses the median prices are $91 versus $284.   On the other hand, a survey of online eyeglass purchasers found that 22% of the ordered items never arrived, and 45% of glasses delivered had problems (Money, 5/12).

ROOFING COPY.     Roofers typically don’t have frequent buyers – and as the source article points out, it’s hard to imagine a less enjoyable way to spend $7000 to $15,000+ than putting on a new roof.   Complete tear-offs will add another $2000-$3000 to the job cost.   That’s why consumers are careful in their choice of roofers, and many use the YP to find a short list of likely contractors.   Four things consumers are advised to look for in a roofer are:  (1) willingness to get all permits; (2) protect decks, patios, shrubs, etc. with tarps, plywood, etc. ; (3) clean up the job site every night; and (4) correct any venting problems with the existing roof.   A strong YP ad should cover these points, among others (Money, 5/12).

GUNS AND GUNSMITHS.     It’s a YP heading that’s beginning to surge, probably reflecting events on the political landscape.   Specifically, the US gun market was worth $19 billion in 2008, but in 2011 sales shot up to $31 billion, a 63% increase.   Another telling measure is that jobs in the firearms industry jumped 30% between 2008 and 2011, while so many other industries were losing jobs.   Also significant is the fact that over 25% of gun purchasers were first-time buyers, thereby placing a high premium on a gun shop’s capacity and facility to offer instruction and safety programs.   Indeed, such programs, if available, would be an important advertising emphasis in the Yellow Pages (Washington Times, 4/23/12).

Find out how to be at the top of your sales performance by clicking on

Other recent media/advertising news:

Radio advertising rises in Q1
Digital, network and off-air nudged total radio advertising revenue up a modest 1% in the first quarter, reaching $3.81 billion, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau. Local radio was flat. Home furnishing and floor coverings (up 30%) and grocery and convenience stores (up 11%) paced the growth. (Source)

TV’s fall ad rates are up from last year
Another positive sign for advertising — despite grumbling from some major advertisers, the major TV networks are achieving higher rates for ad time in the coming fall season. Notable among the dissenters, however, has been General Motors, which is behind only Procter & Gamble and AT&T as a buyer and has been demanding a decrease in rates from last year.   (Source)

National brands looking local for higher ROI
Eighty-eight percent of North American national brands are investing in local marketing, but fewer are measuring their return on that investment, according to a Balihoo survey. About 1 in 5 brands are allocating 25% or more of their marketing budgets to local efforts, according to the survey, although more than half of brands don’t measure local marketing ROI. Most brands, however, expect an ROI for local to meet or exceed that of national advertising.  (Source)

Facebook Poll:   Ads Not Attracting Much Interest                                       A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 4 out of 5 Facebook users have never bought a product or service as a result of advertising or comments on the social network site, the latest sign that the company faces some big challenges to turn its 900 million customer base into advertising dollars.

The online poll also found that 34% of Facebook users surveyed were spending less time on the website than six months ago, whereas only 20% were spending more.

Results like this and a totally botch IPO stock offering underscore worries about Facebook’s money-making abilities.  Those concerns were exacerbated last month when General Motors Co, the third largest advertiser in the United States, said it would stop paid advertising on Facebook.  Its stock is down 29+% since its initial public offering last month, reducing its market value by $30 billion to roughly $74 billion.

Consumers’ increasing use of smartphones to access Facebook has been a drag on the company’s revenue. It offers only limited advertising on the mobile version of its site and analysts say the company has yet to figure out the ideal way to make money from mobile users.  (Source)

A Peak Into Online Marketers Emerging Digital Strategy                       An Adobe’s Digital Marketing Optimization survey indicated that more than two-thirds of online marketers say they will be performing more website analytics checks with social media analytics being  a priority for more than half of respondents. The study indicates that resources will likely be shifted toward the creation of more video (61% of marketers said they’d be focused on that), as well as interactive publications (a priority for 45% of respondents). The survey also shows dissatisfaction with testing methods.  (Source)

Google:  Going Local Thru Social Network                                                  The Google+ social network will be the focal point for a new effort by the search giant to capture local business advertising. Google’s “Business Builder” will combine local search data with smartphone applications such as Punchd, for loyalty rewards, and TalkBin, a mobile-phone feedback service for merchants. Google hopes local businesses will feel better connected to their customers through Google+ and that in turn will spur display advertising as well as coupon offers and other deals through the social network.

At the core of Google’s campaign is a desire to get more local merchants to spend money on digital advertising, including on Google’s search engine, where 20% of searches are for local information.  According to BIA/Kelsey, digital-ad spending by local businesses last year reached $21.2 billion, a figure that is expected to increase by more than 12% annually. (Source)

Some Yellow Pages Love (Yes, It Still Does Happen)                              Here are some recent examples:

Phone books are still useful:  For many adults, looking up your name in the South Central Bell telephone directory meant you had ‘arrived.’

Lessons I Learned From Phone Book Advertising Part I | Your …:  I enjoy placing my business in phone books for several reasons. I find that the response is good if you have correct placement.

Tips for Finding a Roofing Company « Iowa Appliance Rebate …:  The phone book is another good way to find a roofing company in your area.

The big steps to starting a small business:  There are literally thousands of web sites with information on how to create and circulate your newsletter or book. Yellow Pages – This can be a more expensive source for marketing but a high profile way to get your name in the public eye.