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Putting Their Expertise to Work:
BA Students Analyze Real-Life Challenge for R.R. Donnelley

R.R. Donnelley executives offered students in a consumer behavior course an opportunity to analyze a real situation facing their company. The students in both sections of Tiffany Barnett White's buyer behavior class provided their expertise to RR Donnelley executives Patrick Ford, CD-ROM project leader, and Marcus Madej, production manager for print solutions, on November 11. cartoon image of LFCD.

The Challenge      |      The Results      |      The Cast of Characters

The Challenge

Donnelley is well known for its production of residential, B2B, and specialized phone directories. With the increased use of electronic directories, Donnelley is exploring opportunities to use CD-ROM technologies for delivering directory information to end users. The company is particularly interested in leveraging consumers' existing understanding of how directory pages are structured and used by offering a CD with the same look and feel as the hardcopy directories on co-called LFCDs (for "look and feel CD"). Recent research has shown that usage is highest among people who have access to both traditional and CD directories.

A web version of the product and the interface is available at www.youryellowpages.com. With a tag line of "delivering directories to your desktop," the website demonstrates the features of the LFCD as created by Donnelley collaborator Dirxion Software. Value-added features include magnification of white pages listings, business name search, cross-reference capability, and hot links when URLs and email addresses are available.

To increase revenue for directory advertisers, Donnelley asked White's BA 344 consulting groups of students to recommend positioning and promotion ideas for the LFCD product.

The Results

Thirteen student teams - sporting such names as Superior Marketing Solutions, Group One, Goonies, MAJAS, Profilers, and The Cincinnati Group - were asked to provide the following:

  • a situational analysis
  • the primary target audience for product
  • some product improvements or enhancements from the perspective of the end user and/or the yellow pages advertisers
  • promotional ideas

Key to each team's analysis was the assumption that the end user (a residential user or a business) would download the CD information to a local hard drive and not use the yellow pages off the CD.

Under the heading of situational analysis, teams were asked to determine the interest of residential and business customers having yellow pages information delivered via CD. Interviews, surveys, focus groups, and usability testing were all employed to gauge customer reaction to this new product.

cartoon image of LFCD.In general, the student teams came down on the side of phased marketing with business users coming first, followed by younger residential users (18-34). Older consumers were considered less tech savvy and less likely to adopt a new presentation of their old favorite. Businesses were seen as a more attractive target for initial deployment because they could download and use the yellow pages information throughout their organization via a LAN, could conquer any installation issues, and could potentially customize the yellow pages information for the needs of the business. One team identified a more narrow target: business or pleasure travelers who would benefit from easy access to local yellow pages information provided at hotel kiosks.

The most commonly cited barrier to adoption was the typical reluctance of humans to change. However, a few teams noted that the lure of technology would capture some early users. For sustained usage, the product had to be easy to learn and clearly demonstrate additional functionality.

The teams cited other barriers to adoption including the strong predisposition to throw away an unsolicited CD, limited hard drive space on a personal computer, and fear of technology.

Product benefits, which surfaced in the promotional ideas, included speed, ability to customize, and the ease of use of the LFCD, in large part because the presentation is so familiar. Most teams seemed to agree that looking up the phone number of a favorite pizza parlor was a vastly different task than researching replacement windows. For ordering a quick dinner, the yellow pages - in hard copy and residing in your desk drawer - was the tool of choice. To compare features and prices on consumer goods and services, the enhanced CD would be a quicker and ultimately more useful tool.

Probably no product would get off scot-free when someone is asked "can it be improved?" On behalf of the end-user, BA 344 students suggested including:

  • bundled maps, a la Map Quest, with optional directions and printable localized maps
  • additional languages
  • hyperlinks to company web pages
  • a help icon
  • the ability to download core information automatically to a spreadsheet program
  • a more prominent and enhanced search option to include wildcards and alternate spellings ("hmm, is that i before e or vice versa in 'Meijer'?")

For advertisers, they suggested offering the option to:

  • include their company's product price list, menu, or other information that will make the LFCD not only an information resource but an analysis tool for those doing detailed searches
  • purchase a scrolling banner, animation, or Flash presentation about their company ad
  • include high-quality photos in their advertisements

Product delivery was another challenge with a wide variety of solutions offered by the student teams. Some suggested "do's" included bundling the CD with the hardcopy yellow pages or with new computer purchases and including reminders about the product in monthly phone bills. Most teams recommended advertisements on TV and radio and in selected newspapers and magazines. Direct mail to the target user base was also suggested. One commonly identified "don't" was a mass mailing of the LFCD, primarily because most students anticipated that the CD would be discarded automatically (as most reported they do with unsolicited AOL CDs).

Most teams pointed out the need to make clear the additional functionality of the CD-deployed information. "It's not just yellow, it's golden!" was one suggestion to highlight that the LFCD creates added value for the business consumer to complement an already beneficial product. Another group, which would send the LFCD out to customers approximately two weeks before the distribution of a new paper phone book, suggested this tag line: "Your Phone Book Just Got Smaller (and Smarter)."

The Cast of Characters

RR Donnelley representatives.Instrumental in developing the case study for White's classes was Susan Snowden, senior vice president for marketing at R.R. Donnelley in Chicago. Snowden in a 1982 graduate of the Illinois MBA Program as well as the holder of two advertising degrees from Illinois. Earlier this year she was elected to the board of directors of the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association, an organization that serves the global print and electronic media industry valued at more than $25 billion. Evaluating the student presentations were Patrick Ford (left), CD-ROM project leader, and Marcus Madej, production manager for print solutions.

R.R. Donnelley offers comprehensive and integrated communications services, including premedia, digital photography, content management, printing, Internet consulting, and logistics. The company's full range of solutions help publishers and merchandisers, telecommunications, financial, and healthcare companies deliver effective and targeted communications in the right format to the right audience at the right time.

White's BA 344 course includes an overview of consumption differences based on socioeconomic, demographic, cultural, and psychological processes and how buyers make decisions and the implications of such decisions on a marketing strategy. Her research program focuses on the affective, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of consumer-level brand and service relationship.

--Ginny Hudak-David, December 2002