August, 2015

Why White Pages Brand Names Don’t Work In Today’s Yellow Pages World


Where do you go when you know who you’re looking for but not where to find them? The (usually online) White Pages directory. Where do you go when you know what you’re looking for but not who sells it? The Yellow Pages.

Or maybe you just go to Google, which works like both, but more like the Yellow Pages.

The problem is, too many businesses have White Pages names, meaning that customers who don’t know them by name won’t find them.

That was then

This way of naming businesses goes back to the late 19th Century, when telephone directories were first invented. Back then, business founders named their companies or products after themselves (Ford, Oldsmobile, Chrysler, Macy’s, Procter & Gamble, Miller Beer) or where they were located (Chesterfield cigarettes, made in Chesterfield County, VA; Pontiac and Plymouth, both suburbs of Detroit). Not only was there no Internet then, but the world in general was smaller, and folks were more likely to know who was who. Later on, in the 20th Century, many companies had corporate names reflecting what the company did as a whole (like General Foods) but product names that didn’t describe the products (like Oreo or Tide). Still later in the last century, there was a trend to giving businesses meaningless, made-up names, like Altria. All of those work fine, so long as you have millions of dollars to spend on advertising to promote your name each year and lots of years to keep doing it until it sinks into the public’s consciousness.

Unfortunately, small businesses don’t.

This creates a Catch-22, especially for new, small businesses: Customers who don’t know your name can’t find you in White Pages directories (or name searches) because they don’t know your name.

This is now

Consumers are out there looking for what you sell, and your brand name has to make it easy for them to find it (and you) – by fitting the way they search. And this means putting your product or service category into your brand name.

If you already incorporated your business with a White Pages name, changing it to a Yellow Pages name is usually quick and easy by registering a DBA (doing business as) name with your city or county government. Here in Henrico County, VA, for example, it takes about five minutes and $13.

Or, for a big ten bucks a year, you can register a new URL that includes what you sell and point it to your main domain. A client of ours in the custom home building business named their domain after the initials of their corporate entity – – and wondered why they had no search engine visibility. When we built them a new website, we gave it the URL, and the client went instantly to the top three rankings for “custom homes” and “home builder” Google searches. Not bad for ten bucks. And lots better than $300-400 a month for SEO services. According to 2008-9 Webvisible and Nielsen research, 50 percent of consumers first look for stores and other vendors with search engines. Another 24 percent first turn to the paper Yellow Pages. Almost three out of four consumers – 72 percent, to be specific – use search engines more than they did three years ago, and 23 percent use the paper Yellow Pages less. Those numbers actually understate the case, because fully 82 percent of consumers find products and services with search engines.

That’s why it’s important to make what it is you sell an integral part of your brand name. Someone here in Richmond who wants a new home built would never know to look for, say, gce-llc on a search engine. But if they’re searching for custom homes and customhomesva pops up, they’ll find it.

Don’t Spend More To Make Your Advertising Less Effective


There are times when doing too much can be as harmful to your bottom line as spending, and doing, too little.

Audience size isn’t everything

In buying media, for example, the temptation is to go for as large an audience as you can. It’s only logical. Logical, yes, but not necessarily right.

Let’s say you own a small downtown restaurant. Do you really think that your radio buy, reaching listeners a hundred miles away, is going to get people to drive two hundred miles, round trip, to your door?

The principle applies to dayparts as well as media. If that restaurant of yours does mostly lunch or, even worse, dinner business, does a morning drive time buy really make sense? Sure, it’ll reach the most listeners, but hours away from their next meal.

Radio is great for reaching people while they’re driving or, in many cases while they’re at work, but you can reach them with a less expensive time of day.

The newspaper equivalent of drive time is the Sunday edition, which historically draws more readers than any other day – sometimes more than other days combined. But paying more to reach more people on Sunday may just help you reach them too late.

A large Chevrolet dealer, whose biggest sales day was Sunday, used to pay the higher cost of buying space in Sunday editions. What happened, though, that was by the time people got up late on Sundays, browsed through the paper over leisurely brunches, got dressed and went car shopping, at least half the day was gone. When the dealership switched to Friday and Saturday advertising (giving people more time to see the ads and to shop throughout the weekend), it increased sales and cut media costs.

Ad size isn’t everything

Speaking of newspapers, while full pages are the most expensive advertising units, they aren’t the most noticed. What’s obviously a full page of advertising is all too easy for readers to flip past. A page-dominant unit – say, a vertical 3/8 page – dominates the page while attracting more attention to your message. This is for two reasons: First, the surrounding editorial content gives readers a reason to go to the page your ad is on. And second, the gray look of all the newspaper type surrounding a well-designed ad works like a matte in a picture frame, making the ad really pop.

Another newspaper investment to avoid is space in a special advertising section, where you pay extra to have your ad buried among all your competitors’, all bundled up in one easy-to-discard-unread supplement. If the supplement’s timing is right for your business, better to buy run-of-paper space in the same issue.

Newspapers tell you that you can boost readership of your ad by running it in color, because it will stand out from all the black-and-white ads next to it. That’s true as far as it goes. But what they don’t tell you is that when the production department gets hold of the color ads, they gang them all up together to save on printing costs. The result is that your ad gets lost among all the other color ads, and you’ve paid a premium for the dubious privilege.

Ranking isn’t everything

In buying a sponsored link (aka pay-per-click) online campaign, it’s natural to want the highest possible ranking (which, of course, costs extra). It’s natural but wrong. Go into your Google Adsense calculator, look at the traffic estimates, and surprise! Rankings four through seven bring in more traffic than rankings one through three – and at lower cost.

Results are everything

There’s nothing wrong, and a lot right,  with wanting to spend more on advertising to get more sales. But before you do, look carefully at how you’re going to spend it. Put your money into things that really do increase sales (e.g., more frequency), and you’ll get the higher ROI you’re looking for.

Research Reveals Why You’re Going To Believe This Post

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This post may not be true.

Actually, it is. But even if it weren’t, you’d be more likely to believe it. That’s because it has something some others don’t — a picture.

Advertising professionals have long known that a picture makes an ad stand out and attract more readership than an all-type ad. They’ve also known that pictures can go beyond being illustrative to becoming a vital part of the communication.

Sometimes they do this by appearing to contradict the headline, as in the classic Volkswagen ad that showed a picture of an apparently perfect VW Beetle over the headline “Lemon.” (The body copy explained that inspectors had uncovered a minor blemish which VW fixed before sending the car out into the marketplace.)

And sometimes they do it by communicating an important piece of information more powerfully than the headline can.

But even the ad pros didn’t know that, according to experiment results from New Zealand and Canada, the mere presence of a photograph, regardless of subject matter, can make ads more believable.

Research confirms some old cliches

You’d have to be deaf, blind or illiterate not to have heard, seen or read the old adages that “seeing is believing” or that “one picture is worth a thousand words.”

Now, scientific research proves them.

When Victoria University (of Wellington, New Zealand) researchers “wanted to examine how the kinds of photos people see every day…might produce ‘truthiness,’” said lead investigator Eryn J. Newman, “We were really surprised by what we found.”

What they found was that people believe claims – any claims – are true when a picture – any picture – appears beside them.

In four experiments conducted in New Zealand and in Canada, they showed people a series of printed statements. Some were true. Some, like, “The liquid metal inside a thermometer is magnesium,” weren’t. Some appeared with pictures (chosen to shed no light whatever on the truth or falsity of the claim), and some didn’t. They then asked the people, statement by statement, whether it was true or false.

And whenever a picture appeared with a claim, more people said it was true.

That’s why GM’s misleading ad got pulled

Apparently, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority was more aware of the fact that people believe what they see than large advertiser Vauxhall Ampera (AKA Chevrolet Volt), whose commercial they banned from the airwaves for being misleading.

The spot’s video showed closeups of an electric charging cord, headlights coming on, a closeup of a big “Battery Power” dashboard gauge, a power line pylon in the background, and a super claiming a 360-mile range.

Running on the battery only, that range is more like 50.

The order banning the commercial read, in part:

We considered that throughout the ad the emphasis was on the fact that the car was being driven electrically, and that most viewers would not understand that the car was in some circumstances being powered by electricity generated with a petrol engine.

That emphasis came from what viewers saw, not from what they heard or read.

Cheap credibility

Even if you’re a small, local advertiser, you can easily afford to buy some credibility.

Just Google “stock photo,” and you’ll find tons of photo libraries. Many offer royalty-free photos, meaning once you buy one, you can use it forever. Some are free. Many more are cheap (around $30 for a large, hi-res file). Google shows about 1,390,000,000 results, so you’ll have plenty of sources to choose from.

If you have an advertising agency and they’re not doing this for you, then find one that will.

Then, make sure your ads are not only believable, but also honest.