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It was an electrical engineerwho found AT&T's "True" advertising solution.

The No. 1 consumer long-distance telephone marketer had been under siege from MCI for two years without a single hit ad campaign when Joseph P. Nacchio, 45, arrived from AT&T's thriving business unit to shake things up.

A former AT&T engineer named president of AT&T Corp.'s Consumer Services Group in 1993, Mr. Nacchio analyzed the problem from the ground up, immediately hiring a team of package goods marketing experts to work with internal strategists to craft a new campaign.

The result was the "True" effort, which broke in late '93, deftly integrating a suite of consumer long-distance calling programs under one theme, including discounts through True USA Savings, clarity through its True Voice service and frequency incentives through its True Rewards program.

The campaign was an instant success. Within two months, thousands of consumers had switched to AT&T and by the end of 1994, the company claimed it has won more than 14 million consumers and its market share had stabilized at 60%. MCI claims 20% and Sprint claims 10% of the estimated $70 billion consumer long-distance market.

"The secret lay in listening to customers," Mr. Nacchio says. "People said they wanted a program that was simple, and honest, and answered their needs. All we did was uncover that need, then worked like crazy to communicate it in advertising and marketing."

The seven-time marathon runner worked around the clock overseeing a complete overhaul of AT&T's TV, print, direct mail and telemarketing programs at five major ad agencies. He helped select FCB/Leber Katz Partners as the lead agency on the consumer account and personally picked the marketing executives from outside AT&T who were recruited to work with the agency.

But his most true marketing ally remains his engineering background. "In the end, everything is a system. The ability to analyze problems using equations, logic and even math is an invaluable tool, even in marketing."

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