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MCI Communications Corp. tried something highly unusual when it introduced 1-800-COLLECT.

Since users of the new discount long-distance collect calling service need not be MCI subscribers, the No. 2 long-distance marketer decided not to include MCI's own powerful brand name in advertising, says Angela Dunlap, MCI's president of consumer markets.

"1-800-COLLECT defines the service better than anything else we could think of, and every time you see, hear or speak the logo, it's a reinforcement of the product," says Ms. Dunlap, 37, who spearheaded the marketing effort as senior VP-marketing when the service was introduced in May 1993.

That theory proved extremely successful when 1-800-COLLECT was paired with a bare-bones descriptive ad theme: "America's least expensive way to call collect."

Consumers got the idea instantly, and almost overnight 1-800-COLLECT became the fastest-growing product in the $3 billion collect-calling market. Few would have guessed the product evolved from concept to TV advertising in just 11 weeks.

Targeting highly mobile, under-30 consumers, MCI grabbed so much business immediately that rival AT&T Corp. was spurred to copy MCI with its own discount collect calling service, dubbed 1-800-OPERATOR. But AT&T never caught up with MCI, and this year it scrapped the logo.

In addition to advertising from Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer, New York, an aggressive integrated-marketing campaign took 1-800-COLLECT to beaches, concerts, sporting events and college campuses, with mobile advertising and sampling.

This summer, MCI hired a full-time stunt pilot to fly around the U.S. in a bi-plane brightly painted with nothing other than 1-800-COLLECT.

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