From The Editor's Desk

Why Do Phone Book Catalogs Exist?

When people get forced into marketing patterns, they stay there. And they expect the consumer to stay there too.

I came home yesterday to find two large phone books on my front door step. I didn’t order them, nor request them. I haven’t used a Yellow Pages or any type of phone book in at least 10 years. I have this thing called Google. Any time I order anything, my smart phone makes it easy and simple.

Notice that the phone book company threw two catalogs on my front porch. Believing that I’m definitely going to be using the advertisements inside, although I never do. Actually, both big yellow books, which probably killed off a rain forest, were chucked in the recycle bin soon after they showed up on my door.

Consider what the phone book does though; it’s essentially an old-school advertising forum for businesses. Back in the 1950s-1990s, everyone had a phone book. Everyone needed to seek out a phone number, including Elizabeth Taylor in “BUtterfield-8.” If you haven’t seen the movie, it used to be the way that phone number exchanges were utilized. That was until the 1970s, when phone numbers, instead of names, became the new normal standard. Should we continue doing it, as they did in the 1960’s, simply because that’s the way its always been done???

The phone book mentality should die. There likely isn’t as much of a need for it as people think. It probably isn’t being consumed worth a damn. Yet, someone believes in it who writes the advertising checks for a business. Someone still has faith that it is working, with likely less R.O.I. each time a phone book is printed. Because, that’s what everyone used to do.

This mentality of continuing on a long-dead marketing plan is nothing more than breathing life into a corpse. It serves no purpose and its gross.

Every once in a while, I check my apartment mailbox. Mainly because the apartment complex requires me to for “notices.” I’m starting to believe this is a ruse. What I received instead are a lot of advertising circulars and other recycle bin quality materials. Yet there are whole groups of businesses who spend countless resources on getting these advertisements in front of me, only to find that I rarely if ever see them.

Notice what Kramer tried to do on Seinfeld back in the 1990’s:

If it was such a problem even back then, I’m certain it’s exacerbated as a downright epidemic now. Imagine those TV cable cord-cutters never picking up the mail, a phone book, a newspaper or turning on the radio. My question is: What does your marketing plan look like then?

Consider what I’ve just told you in this blog post: Two specific marketing efforts, which used to be the standard, are no longer what I utilize. Yet, instead of changing up the business model, these two types of marketing efforts continue. Will we see mass mail circulars in 2115 as we do in 2015? Only time will tell. But it begs the question what the consumer is actually seeing, and whether it is worth our time as businesses to advertise in these models.

Circulation numbers, like anything, can be manipulated. Consider that the phone book company counted two books, generating some statistic that it accounted for 8,000+ reads over the lifetime of the phone book, despite never book being opened by anyone and tossed directly into the recycle bin. Notice these statistics while backup my statements. Yet, how many sports organizations continue to utilize old, dead, tired models over new ones because “we’ll reach more people.”

According to whom, I ask? The phone book company? The mail circular company?

I’d prefer the Internet, where the statistics actually show who clicks, when, how many times, and what they interacted with. Seems like a much better bet, especially during a follow-up call interaction, than the current one of “reminder advertising” in a static phone book or mail circular.

Of course, you’ll still have sports executives who will believe otherwise, just like the Postmaster General dealing with Kramer. Notice that he is forcing Kramer, as a consumer, to take the product “his way.” Is that really a sale, or an order? And does it elite a customer for life, or someone merely seeking an alternative opportunity to avoid dealing with the Postmaster General again? Think about that for a moment.

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