by Kenneth Rudich
In a television commercial currently being aired by a local injury law office, one of the partners portrays the role of a stand-up comic performing his act. Poised on stage under a wash of bright light, he quips, “Hey, the new phone book came out. I have only one question. Who cares?”
Then, after the brief insertion of a graphic bearing the law firm’s name and phone number (and with audience laughter playing in the background), he is shown walking off stage while muttering, “Does anyone even use it anymore?”
This commercial reminds me of my own experience every time a new printing of the phone book or yellow pages lands on the doorstep of my home these days. Like the lawyer, my first inclination is to look at it in wonder. My second is to pick it up and promptly toss it into the recycling bin.
As it pertains to me, the life of a new phone book typically lasts something less than twenty seconds.
search engine marketing
I suppose it’s conceivable some people do find this yesteryear invention still useful, but it’s got to be a rapidly dwindling number.
By my way of thinking, the yellow pages in particular began to lose their luster once the Internet search engine became accessible on the World Wide Web. After that, it ceased to be anything but clutter to me.
And now, with Internet access conveniently available via smartphones and mobile devices, I would venture to say that the printing of these books has turned a corner and borders on being somewhat suspicious.
The inescapable reality is that traditional marketing has undergone a makeover called search engine search. Search…Search…Search has grown as prevalent in importance as Location…Location…Location. It, along with social media, has become a critical ingredient for business success.
So much so, I wonder how many people under the age of 45 would even know what to do with a phonebook if one were placed in their hands. (Hint: There’s an impressive trick almost anyone can do if you know the secret behind it. It involves tearing the thick part of a phonebook in half.)
the new inbound marketing
Sometimes I get the impression people think the concept of inbound marketing is novel or new. It isn’t. The yellow pages promoted inbound marketing well before the Internet search engine arrived.
Though primitive by today’s standards, it’s the exact same idea. When consumers needed information about a product or service, they turned to the yellow pages to execute a search.
Businesses meanwhile purchased advertising space in the yellow pages to be ready and accessible for whenever that happened. In lieu of focusing on search engine keywords and phrases, however, many would name their businesses AAA-(insert business name here) because the yellow page listings are printed in alphabetical order. In this context, a triple A at the front your name would ensure a higher ranking than, say, a double A or single A would. One could also buy the equivalent of a banner ad to gain added prominence on the page.
Just like the telegraph once had its heyday as a technology for communicating over long distances, phonebooks and yellow pages once had their day under the sun as an inbound marketing tool.
But no more.
I foresee the eventuality of a new injury law firm commercial in which the announcer pointedly asks, “Have you been duped into purchasing advertising space in the yellow pages directory? If so, you may be eligible for damages. Call…”