ICB Toll Free (800/888) News by: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News
Monday September 08 1997 at 04:00:37 PM EDT


MCI shares its powerhouse 800 marketing strategy.

New York, NY US - 09/08/97 New York, NY (ICB TOLL FREE NEWS) MCI has done it again, launching a new 800 campaign - 1 800 SUNDAYS - guaranteed to make consumers sit up and take note. Known for savvy 800 marketing, MCI is even making sure there are no misdial errors to siphon off lucrative business.

For example, calls to 1 888 SUNDAYS reach the same MCI call center as calls to 1 800 SUNDAYS. This is known in the industry as . replication. , a controversial mechanism by which 800 marketers seek to protect their 800 brands in other toll-free exchanges such as 888.

(Controversial because the FCC has not yet ruled whether or not to grant 800 numbers such special 'branding' or 'trademark' protection in new toll-free exchanges. Indeed, ATIS, the industry standards forum that MCI is a member of, has recommended that the FCC not to grant users replication rights of 800 numbers into the new 877 exchange, due out in April, . 98.)

Nonetheless, savvy-marketer-MCI appears to have its own bases covered.

. We make sure in every 800 vanity number we use, that we have all the options covered,. confirmed Brad Burns, MCI spokesman. . So that for 1 800 SUNDAYS, anyway you can possibly spell it, there. s a really good chance that MCI has all the mistakes that callers might make as well. Even for 1 800 COLLECT, whether you use a zero or the letter . O. , either will work. We always do what we can to grab the numbers..

According to Brad, the decision to use 1 800 SUNDAYS was an integral part of the product development process for their new five-cents-a-minute-on-Sundays long distance service. . It makes sense to have the most memorable and synergistic 800 number,. he advised, . one that is clearest, most identifiable with the product or service being offered, and causes no confusion to consumers..

For example, he said, . Sprint. s new collect call service, 1 800 ONE DIME, is confusing because there is a charge in addition to the 10 cent per minute rate, so that billing will not match the consumer. s expectation created by the number..

With Sprint. s launch of 1 800 ONE DIME last week, we asked MCI if 1 800 SUNDAYS was a long time in the making, or a more recent response to Sprint. s activity, and whether the numbers 1 800 SUNDAYS and 1 888 SUNDAYS had been warehoused at MCI pending the launch, or were recent acquisitions.

. Of course,. Brad hedged, . one week is a long time here at MCI, where things can happen overnight. I cannot get into specifics as to where the numbers came from, but they. re MCI. s now, and a cornerstone of the campaign..

So for marketers, getting the right numbers is key -- but MCI won. t kiss and tell. Asked how they get their own 800 numbers, particularly with such precise requirements, MCI. s Kelly Seacrist acknowledged, . A large part of our business strategically is how we get these numbers. We consider it proprietary information.

Author/Correspondent's Profile: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News

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