Sibling rivalry?

Directories aren’t what they used to be – print is just one format among many. So with such a variety of versions available, how do companies successfully market them under one brand while maintaining their separate values? Ian Whiteling repor

JR couldn’t boot up his computer and search online. Otherwise he could have used an Internet search engine to find second-hand book shops, or keyed in the title of his book to see what came up. Alternatively he could have chosen an online directory – in his case, probably Yell.com – which would have offered him the details of book shops throughout the UK rather than just the local selection in his Yellow Pages. And who knows, Amazon may have had a copy lurking deep in its database that he could have ordered online. Today JR Hartley may also have been able to use a CD-Rom containing a list of second-hand book shops, angling literature or deleted publications, all of which he might have found useful.

The growth in directory media has given users and advertisers more choice, but has also opened up new markets for directory publishers. Now they produce more directories and have to cater for a wider market and, in many cases, target different customer groups.

Variety of formats

“All of our directories are in hard copy, on CD-Rom and on the Web,” says Peter Snook, publisher of the Kompass Register, a Reed Business Information business-to-business directory. “Hard copies are still popular among libraries and companies with large information departments. Our CD-Roms, which can be networked and contain more information than the book, attract businesses that need to use our information frequently and want to be able to download details. The Web goes down well with people who want very up-to-date information as it is revised regularly.”

All directory publishers supplying products across different media, whether aimed at consumers or businesses, face the problem of how to market the different versions and how to price access to data and advertising across the various media.

Kompass Register marketing manager Jackie Nice says it’s essential to reinforce core brand values to customers. “Our trade press and banner advertising promotes the Kompass Register as a single product available in various forms,” she explains.

“At exhibitions we will promote all forms, but may give one medium more prominence if we feel it is more suited to a particular sector. For example, at the Total Marketing Solutions exhibition we placed the emphasis on CD-Roms and the Web, as attendees were likely to need the information for mailshots and therefore wanted the flexibility that this medium offers, but we promoted the other format too.”

Of course advertising, as well as information sales, is crucial to the success of most directories and the ad sales team at Kompass reinforces the brand further by presenting all three formats as one package to potential advertisers. However, each medium retains its own price structure.

This concept of “transferring brand values across the family” of different media is also employed at Yell, although on a much larger scale. The company, which was once exclusively represented by the “good old” Yellow Pages, now manages Talking Pages, Yell.com and Business Pages. “At Yell we have developed an integrated marketing approach and promote Yellow Pages, Yell.com and Talking Pages to users in one creative, with the strapline ‘Three ways to get what you want’,” explains Yell head of external relations Richard Duggleby.

An example of this approach is demonstrated by Yell’s TV campaign, which ran alongside a London Underground sponsorship campaign on 2,600 station maps and 7 million pocket journey planners, ads on London taxis, 48-sheet poster sites across the country and bus-side ads in Reading (the location of Yell’s headquarters).

By using different names for each medium, Yell has created three individual products differentiated by the fact that each offers a specific way of accessing information contained on a single database of 1.8 million companies. Yet through an integrated campaign each is strengthened by the Yell brand and the presence of each other.

Integrated approach

The classic “walking fingers” device is used by each product, but in a different colour. Such a well-known logo and strong cross-product branding means that each medium can be marketed individually if necessary, yet still retain a link with the Yell brand. This was done during spring 2001 with the solus TV campaign for Yell.com centred on the strapline: “Don’t just search, Yell.com”, presenting it as a more efficient way of finding a service on the Internet rather than using a standard Internet search engine.

Business Pages is marketed separately as it is aimed at business users rather than consumers, but it also sports the walking fingers logo retaining its link with Yell.

As with Reed’s business-to-business directories, Yell has a single salesforce that sells advertising across all media, strengthening the brand and using the product range to illustrate the broad service offered. “We have a single salesforce that develops an appropriate advertising programme to meet the needs of each individual advertiser,” says Duggleby.

“The salesforce works with advertisers and researches their business needs carefully. This enables a selection of products from the Yell stable to be offered to potential and existing advertisers, enabling us to provide them and their business with a more comprehensive service.”

Duggleby is also keen to stress the need for a separate pricing structure for each medium. “We don’t operate a bundle-pricing strategy at Yell,” he says. “We price each product separately, because we want each one to stand alone. If a particular medium is not appropriate to an advertiser, there’s no point giving it away free.”

Kendall Gordon, marketing director at rival Thomson Directories, agrees. “If you bundle media together, it’s difficult to sell and establish the separate values of each,” he warns. “Offering cut-price space on a newly launched Web version of a directory, for example, or as an incentive to advertise in another version of the directory, is not a good precedent to set as it will be hard to change later.”

Thomson Directories’ database of 2.3 million business listings supports 173 Thomson Local annual directories and its online version Thomweb.co.uk, launched in 1998, plus business-to-business products Business Search Pro CD-Roms and New Connections subscription and information card service.

Like the Yell range, although treated as separate products, Thomson Local and Thomweb are marketed together under the strapline “Answers come out of the blue” playing on Thomson Directories’ familiar brand colour. “Pop into your local” ads on local radio stations around the UK help further strengthen the brand in the eyes of the public and a single advertising salesforce sells across both media without bundling prices together.

When a directory is rolled out across various formats, each version is targeting the same broad market, so it makes sense to have a single marketing and sales strategy. This can work to strengthen the parent brand and pass on key brand associations to the various formats of the product.

However, within this it is important to reinforce each medium’s key benefits and to maintain individual pricing structures, to prevent the lines between media becoming too blurred. By doing this, the unique selling points of each medium will be emphasised and, if necessary, it will be easier to aim individual formats at specific sectors within the overall market.

No competition

This approach also makes it easier to compete within various media, stressing the benefits of using an online directory over a general Internet search engine for example.

“Web search engines can never compete with the role of the publisher which is to research, refine and filter all relevant information for an industry. Publishers take out all the effort of searching and sourcing for yourself, and they are the best people to present that content in an easily digestible way,” says Gary Zabel, managing director of Hollis Publishing, producers of the Hollis PR Annual, Advertisers Annual and Marketing Handbook.

But only by treating your online product separately while emphasising the overall resources and experience of the main brand can this key message be put across effectively.

“Consumers and businesses are finally getting the data they want delivered to them in the forms that they need, tailored to their requirements, whether that be for quick reference, direct marketing or some other purpose,” says Reed Business Information’s Nice. “Directory publishers are faced with a more complex marketing picture, but one that promotes a better service and which is far more dynamic.”

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