800 NUMBERS ARE ALIVE AND WELL

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Re: "Instant Branding" [Famous Last Words] by Denny Hatch. Target Marketing, August 1999, p. 102 

A former reader of Who's Mailing What, I've admired and respected the work of Deny Hatch for many years, but to my great surprise, he misses the boat on the subject of 800 vanity numbers and 800 versus 888, as well as domain names as trademarks, in the above-referenced article. 

Mr. Hatch prefaces a brief and rather glib attack on tollfree number brokers with the has-been implication, "Back in the days of vanity 800 numbers..."?! 

According to a September 1998 study, 91 percent of television commercials that use a toll-free number use the 800 prefix, 57 percent of which are vanity numbers. Seventy-nine percent of 15-second commercials with toll-free numbers use vanity numbers, as do 75 percent of 30-second commercials. 

A January 1999 study reveals that vanity phone numbers dramatically increase advertising response rates, finding that radio ads with a vanity 800 number drew 14 times more calls than those with a numeric 800 number. 

These are not the statistic of a "has-been" marketing too. 

As for another comment, "I know a guy who bought 1-800BERMUDA ... I think the addition of the toll-free 888 area code destroyed his investment." 

I can tell you as one follows both industries, that as goes the newer ".com" versus ".net" so goes the more enctrenched brand 800 versus 888. 

On a practical level, the 888 number is almost always part of the package along with applicable domain names when 800 numbers are purchased from one marketer by anoth, for obvious brand-protection purposes. (In cases where the seller doesn't matching 888, they often porcure is in oreder to cement the sale.) Of moare substantial notek though is, is brand value of 800 over 888. 

Even as the public gains meager intellectual awareness of 888 and 877 as toll free, only 800 vanity numbers trigger an elevated response and a pronounced buying behavior. 

A few years back ICB researched 800 vanity number use in the marketplace, specifically within mainstream companies with existing advertising experience and track record (versus vanity-specific companies like 800 FLOWERS) 

Results: A TV campaign test of 1-800-PRODIGY versus their numeric 800 number pulled a full 25-percent greater response, over a 24-hour longe period of time, everytime the commercials aired. Prodigy also attributed significantly increased customer retention (in a churn-sensitive business), and measurable increased customer satisfactiona ratings, to the use of the 1-800-PRODIGY vanity number. 

Jeep Eagle shared similarly enthusiastic results based on its 1-800-JEEP-EAGLE commercial experience. Historically gunshy about incurring 1-800 costs on a mass television scale, it took the TV plunge advertising 1-800-JEEP-EAGLE on the Super Bowl. Response rates exceeded expectations, with the company discovering an elevated caliber of respondent, peo ple both more inclined, and more financially qualified, to buy, (Conversion follow-up confirmed this: within 12 months of the first call to 1-800-JEEP-EAGLE, 50 percent of callers boought either a Jeep Eagle or a comparable brand. 

ICB heard similar stories from Bally's Health and Fitness, as well as other marketers. Callers to Bally's vanity numbers (1800-WORKOUT and 1-800-FITNESS) "were raising their hands, asking to buy," according to one call center manager. 

We know that 800 numbers trigger response, identifying prospects of varying levels of qualification. But "good" 800 vanity numbers--brand names, recongized vernacular and calls to action--trigger an elevated response over numberics, as well as a pronounced buying behavior. According to the mainstream marketers we spoke with, 800 vanity numbers attract more callers, who are more qualified by both desire and ability to buy. 

Wearing my publisher-and-"800 scholar" hat. I attribute this phenonmenon to the inherent power of language. Of course as an industry advisor. I endorse what works best. 

Finally, this article begins with "Internet domain name registration system creates de facto trademarks." 

It ain't necessarily so. Overturning a U.S. district court decision, Avery Dennison Corp. v. Sumpton, 98-55810. Judge 

Stephen Trott of Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently found that "registration of.. [domain] names [does] not constitute commercial use under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995." 

JUDITH OPPENHEIMER 

PUBLISHER, ICB TOLL FREE NEWS PRESIDENT, ICB TOLL FREE CONSULTANCY NEW YORK 

Copyright North American Publishing Company Oct 1999